Bangladesh Hasina Wajid heads for landslide victory amid deadly violence and massive rigging reports

Bangladesh Hasina Wajid heads for landslide victory amid deadly violence and massive rigging reports
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DHAKA - Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was heading for a landslide win in a general election Sunday that was marred by opposition claims of vote-rigging and violence between rival supporters that killed at least 17 people.

Hasina s ruling Awami League party easily crossed the 151 seats required to form a majority government, according to local TV station Channel 24, which is compiling results from around the country.

As midnight approached, the Awami League and its allies had won 191 seats -- some by tens of thousands of votes -- while the opposition coalition had only five, the channel said.

The alliance running against Hasina, led by the main opposition Bangladesh National Party, branded the vote "farcical" and urged the country s election commission to void the results.

"We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible," Kamal Hossain, who heads the coalition, told reporters.

Deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.

Thirteen people were killed in clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters, police said, while three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling booths.

An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to officials.

Hasina, 71, has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during her decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition -- including arch-rival and BNP leader Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges -- to cling on to power.

The BNP-led opposition alliance on Sunday accused Hasina s party of using stuffed ballot boxes and other illegal means to fix the result, which was to be officially announced by the election commission on Monday.

BNP spokesman Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal told reporters there were "irregularities" in 221 of the 300 seats contested. "Voters are not allowed to enter booths. Especially women voters are being forced to vote for the boat," Alal said, referring to the Awami League symbol.

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