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Bangladesh Elections: Voting under way amid threats of violence

With a spate of violent incidents preceding today’s elections and rumors fueling fears of an escalation, Bangladesh’s Army chief, General Aziz Ahmed, has said that more than 50,000 personnel have been deployed so that everyone can vote freely.

Voting started at 8 am local time (0200 GMT) and is expected to conclude at 4 pm (1000 GMT) across more than 40,000 polling stations. Counting will begin soon after the voting ends.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is seeking a third straight term in power, cast her vote in the capital, Dhaka.

“We believe in democracy and we will accept the people’s mandate,” Hasina said.

More than 104 million registered voters will exercise their franchise to elect 299 representatives to parliament, known as Jatiya Sangshad. Voting in one constituency was suspended due to the death of a candidate.

A total of 1,841 candidates from the Grande Alliance, led by the ruling Awami League (AL) party, and the opposition alliance, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are competing in the elections.

Around 600,000 security personnel, including the army, have been deployed across the country in a bid to contain violence during the 11th general elections.

Internet has been completely shut down until midnight of Sunday to prevent “rumors”, the English language newspaper, the Daily Star, reported.

Electronic Voting Machines will be used for the first time in select constituencies.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda on Saturday asked the law enforcing agencies to act with an iron fist to check violence.

If any negligence or insincerity during poll-time duty is found,  legal action will be taken against them after investigation, the CEC told the press at a conference at the Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital, Dhaka.

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