DHAKA: Bangladesh saw a low voter turnout on Sunday in a general election poised to keep the ruling party in power as the opposition boycotted the polls.
Around 119 million people, or 70 percent of the total population, are registered to vote in more than 42,000 stations throughout the country. Approximately 700,000 security officials were deployed to guard the polls, while around 200 foreign observers monitored the vote, according to the Election Commission.
The ruling Awami League faced no major rivals as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies shunned Sunday’s vote, after the incumbent administration rejected the BNP’s monthslong demand to have a neutral caretaker government administer the election.
Election Commission chief, Kazi Habibul Awal, said the voter turnout was around 40 percent.
“This is the dependable estimate of the turnout,” Awal told reporters in Dhaka. “The percentage of votes cast may fall or go up after we have processed all the data.”
At the 2018 election, Bangladesh’s overall voter turnout was at more than 80 percent.
Foreign observers who monitored Sunday’s vote said Bangladesh’s polls had followed international standards.
“The elections were organized and peaceful,” Shakir Mahmood Bandar, who heads the election observation mission from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told reporters during a press conference.
At various polling stations across the capital, voters also highlighted the low turnout.
“The voter turnout is not very decent. Since the opposition boycotted the election, I think many people lost interest in voting. The festive mood is missing,” Mohammed Forkan Ali, 59, who was voting in Dhaka’s Lalbagh neighborhood, told Arab News.
“I think the opposition should have participated in the election process as it is a fundamental issue for any democracy … Today’s election has created a unique condition for democracy in the country. I wonder, who will sit in the opposition bench in the parliament?”
Tarannum Begum, who is from the capital’s Mirpur area, observed a similar scene when she went to cast her vote.
“I think it’s my sacred national duty to cast a vote during the elections. That’s why I came here … Everything is very orderly, but I noticed a low voter turnout,” Begum, 37, told Arab News.
“For a peaceful journey toward development, political leaders from all the parties should sit together and come to an agreement to determine our future roadmap to become a prosperous nation.”