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Bangladesh General Election 2018: 10 killed as clashes mar vote

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Dhaka, Dec 30: Ten people were killed in clashes on election day in Bangladesh on Sunday following a deadly campaign marred by outbreaks of violence. Voting began at 8 am local time (7.30 am IST). Security has been stepped up across the country and over 6,00,000 officials have been appointed to help conduct the polling process smoothly.

Around 104 million voters will choose between an alliance led by Hasina's ruling Awami League party and a coalition headed by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which was cobbled together only three months ago.

Image credit: PTI

Opinion polls show Hasina, who has presided over impressive economic growth during an unbroken decade in power but who is also accused of growing authoritarianism, heading for a comfortable victory.

She needs 151 seats in the first-past-the-post system to win in the 300-seat parliament but experts say any victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung her opponents' campaign.

If Hasina wins, she will be in for her third consecutive term after the wins in 2008 and 2014 elections. Bangladesh has made rapid economic progress in her rule but its human rights abuse rates have also reached new lows.

The BNP has stayed out of the parliamentary process since 2014 when it boycotted the last general election over its demands for a poll-time non-party government. It returned to parliamentary politics as part of a new alliance - National Unity Front (NUF) - that was cobbled together three months ago with eminent lawyer Kamal Hossain as its convener.

But the party is in a state of disarray in the absence of its two top leaders Zia and her fugitive son Tarique Rahman who is the acting party chief. Zia, 73, is serving a 10-year prison term on graft charges while Rahman is living in London ostensibly to evade the law as a court has sentenced him to life imprisonment for masterminding a grenade attack on a rally in 2004 that killed 24 Awami League leaders and activists.

The opposition, however, said they are facing violent attacks and intimidation, including arrests that has affected their electioneering.

At least six people have been killed in poll-related clashes since the campaigning began as Awami League claimed that five of them were its supporters while BNP alleged that over 12,000 opposition activists including several candidates were injured in attacks by the ruling party's activists.

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