- Sheikh Hasina, seeking fourth term in power, among the early voters
- Over six lakh security personnel deployed across Bangladesh
- Campaigning was marked by violence, charges of government crackdown
An activist of the ruling Awami League party was among the five people who were reportedly killed in election-related clashes in Bangladesh today. Fresh incidents of violence between members of the Awami League Party and the main Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposition (BNP) were reported even as tight security was put in place following three weeks of campaign that saw violence and allegations of a government crackdown on opposition activists.
One man was killed when police opened fire in "self-defence" on opposition activists who they say had attacked a polling station in the southern town of Bashkhali, news agency AFP reported. Mohammed Bashir Uddin, a leader from the Awami League's youth front, was allegedly attacked by BNP supporters while on his way to the polling station, news agency ANI reported quoting local media. The election-day deaths bring to nine the number of people confirmed by police to have died since the ballot was announced on November 8, the 11th since Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is seeking a fourth term in power, was the first voter at the Dhaka City College centre in the capital where her lawyer nephew and party candidate Fazle Nur Taposh was a contender.
"I believe the people of the country will vote for the boat to help us continue the development journey. Pro-liberation forces will clinch the victory," news agency IANS quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
Over six lakh security personnel including several thousand soldiers and paramilitary border guards have been deployed across the country -- including across the polling stations -- to help conduct the election in which 10.41 crore people are eligible to vote.
Mobile operators have been asked to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday "to prevent the spread of rumours" that could trigger unrest during the election.
A total of 1,848 candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. The polls are being held at 40,183 polling stations.
Opinion polls show Sheikh Hasina, who has presided over six percent GDP expansion every year since she won a landslide in December 2008, heading for a comfortable victory that would extend her reign as the country's longest-serving leader.