More unrest feared as Bangladesh holds ‘farce’ vote

More unrest feared as Bangladesh holds ‘farce’ vote

DHAKA - Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is certain to cement her grip on power this Sunday at elections boycotted by her rivals and shunned by the West after unprecedented bloodshed.

While Hasina says the election will allow her to "eliminate militancy", analysts warn it will spark more unrest after the bloodiest year in Bangladesh's short and troubled history.

A poll in the normally pro-government Dhaka Tribune on Friday showed 77 per cent of voters were against the election without the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

The same survey showed the BNP would have won a narrow victory over Hasina's Awami League but the result is not in doubt as most of the seats are uncontested.

"Fight or Farce?" read the front-page headline in the best-selling Daily Star newspaper, full of pictures of burnt-out buses and victims of petrol bomb attacks.

The turmoil has further dimmed hopes of improving the lives of the 154 million population which make up the world's eighth most populous country, a third of whom are below the poverty line.

In a final election address on Thursday, Hasina vowed to turn Bangladesh into "a middle-income country" by the turn of the decade and solve its chronic power problems.

But the most impassioned section of her address came when she denounced BNP leader Khaleda Zia who has tried to derail the polls with mass protests.

"She held the people hostage in the name of strikes and blockades," Hasina said, blaming Zia supporters for the deaths of civilians and security forces.

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