Bangladeshi election officials commenced the vote-counting process on Sunday, concluding polls that virtually ensured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s fifth term in office. The election was marked by the absence of any meaningful opposition participation, as a boycotting party, labeled a “terrorist organization” by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, refrained from contesting.

While Sheikh Hasina’s leadership has overseen rapid economic growth in a country that once grappled with widespread poverty, her government has faced allegations of widespread human rights violations and a stern crackdown on the opposition.

Despite the absence of effective rivals in most contested seats, Sheikh Hasina’s party strategically refrained from fielding candidates in a few constituencies, seemingly aiming to prevent the legislature from being perceived as a one-party institution. The election results are being closely watched amid concerns about the fairness and inclusivity of the electoral process.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), facing significant reductions in its ranks due to widespread arrests, declared a general strike and discouraged public participation in what it termed a “sham” election. In response, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, aged 76, appealed to citizens to maintain trust in the democratic process.

In addressing reporters after casting her vote, Sheikh Hasina asserted, “The BNP is identified as a terrorist organization.” She emphasized her commitment to preserving democracy in the country, stating, “I am doing everything within my capacity to ensure the continuation of democracy in this nation.” The contrasting perspectives between the ruling party and the opposition underscore the deeply polarized atmosphere surrounding the electoral proceedings.

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