Fears that Bangladesh opposition is becoming radicalised | Asia Pacific

Fears that Bangladesh opposition is becoming radicalised

Fears that Bangladesh opposition is becoming radicalised

Updated 7 January 2014, 12:39 AEDT

Bangladesh's weekend election has been labelled a farce and there are fears that it could ultimately strengthen the hand of extremist groups in the strife-torn country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League easily won re-election after the main opposition parties boycotted the poll.

Even so the violent clashes between police and protesters has led to fears that the opposition to the government is becoming radicalised.

Reporter: Michael Edwards

Speakers: General AMN Muniruzzaman, Head, Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Dhaka; vox pops.

EDWARDS: The ruling party, the Awami League, had the election in the bag even before a single vote was cast.

Most of its candidates were elected unopposed after the country's main opposition parties boycotted the election.

Many Bangladeshis feel as though this makes the result invalid. And the anger continues to rise.

Around 20 people died in clashes between security forces and protesters on election day - dozens were killed in the weeks preceding it.

Thirty or so polling booths were also set on fire.

The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, went ahead with the polls after refusing to bow to opposition demands to have them organised by a neutral caretaker administration.

Sheikh Hasina's bitter political rival, the leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) - the former prime minister Khaleda Zia - has spent most of the past few months under virtual house arrest.

Complicating the situation was the government's move to execute an Islamist leader for his role in opposing independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged last month for his role in a 1971 massacre during Bangladesh's war of independence. His death sparked riots as supporters of his party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) took to the streets.

JI has never had widespread public support because of its links to Pakistan, but the concern for many is that this could change because of the government's suppression of its political opponents.

General AMN Muniruzzaman is the head of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, based in Dhaka.

MUNIRUZZAMAN: Radical elements of Bangladesh will come out and spread their wings because democratic process or the due process will be halted by the process of an election which is not credible.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: All the major opposition parties are now holding a nationwide strike. Analysts such as General Muniruzzaman are fearful the violence could escalate.

MUNIRUZZAMAN: Since the election dates were declared in the last week of October something like 150 peoples lost their lives.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And the government isn't exactly striking a conciliatory note post the election.

In a warning to its opponents, it's vowed to eliminate militancy that it says is being generated by Islamic extremists.

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