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Bangladeshis vote for 1st time in 7 years

 Alim Hussain, who said he was 97, waits in a queue to cast his vote in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Bangladeshis formed long lines at po...
 Women stand in a queue to cast their votes for the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Security forces lined the streets M...
 A security personnel stands guard, as people stand in a queue to cast their votes for the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 20...

Bangladesh Election

Alim Hussain, who said he was 97, waits in a queue to cast his vote in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Bangladeshis formed long lines at po...

Bangladesh Election

Women stand in a queue to cast their votes for the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Security forces lined the streets M...

Bangladesh Elections

A security personnel stands guard, as people stand in a queue to cast their votes for the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 29, 20...

Security forces lined the streets Monday as Bangladesh held its first election in seven years, a much-anticipated poll to restore democracy in this troubled nation after two years of emergency rule.
Many voters in the capital were still waiting in line when polls closed at 4 p.m. (1000 GMT). Election officials said those already inside polling stations would still be allowed to cast their votes.
Election officials began counting the ballots at each polling station as it closed, but a clear picture of the outcome will not be available before early Tuesday, said election official Shakwat Hossain.
Authorities have deployed 650,000 police officers and soldiers across the country to prevent violence and vote fraud in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which has a history of military rule and political unrest.
There were scattered allegations of fraud and voter intimidation, as well as clashes between supporters of rival candidates in southwestern and northern Bangladesh that left 28 people injured, according to the United News of Bangladesh agency and the ATN Bangla television station.
Local officials could not be reached for confirmation.
Authorities feared the polls might degenerate into wider violence as the last attempt at elections in 2007 did, prompting the military to cancel the vote and declare emergency rule.
Bangladesh's interim leader, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said the transfer of power to an elected government would be complete soon. "We've waited for this day for the last two years," he said.
But both of the leading candidates _ former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina _ are facing corruption charges, and many fear the election will not bring the reform the impoverished country of 150 million desperately needs. The two have traded power back and forth for 15 years in successive governments marked by corruption, mismanagement and paralyzing protests.
S.A. Quader, a 57-year-old businessman, was among about 500 voters who arrived at a polling station in the capital's northern Uttara district at least an hour before it opened.
"I'm here to choose the right person to lead our country," Quader said. "I'm confident the election will be free and fair."
Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda expected a high voter turnout.
"I am sure this is going to be a historic election," he told reporters after he cast his vote in Dhaka. "The voters are waiting in long queues. That's impressive."
More than 81 million people were eligible to vote. Some 200,000 election observers, including more than 2,000 foreign ones, fanned out across the country to monitor voting.
Both leading candidates said supporters alerted them to reports of voting irregularities, but election officials did not confirm any problems.
Clashes broke out over the weekend between supporters of Hasina and Zia, leaving 85 people injured in three different districts, the United News of Bangladesh reported.
Zia was elected prime minister in 1991, Hasina in 1996, and Zia again in 2001.
Last year, both Zia and Hasina were jailed on corruption charges, which they dismissed as politically motivated. They were freed on bail and reassumed positions as the heads of their respective parties, the two largest in the country.


Updated : 2021-08-03 02:17 GMT+08:00