At least 11 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes and police firing in Bangladesh as the country held the first phase of local government elections on Tuesday.
Major violence broke out in Pirojpur district on Tuesday night after supporters of the ruling Awami League intercepted a presiding officer and allegedly attempted to snatch ballot boxes.
The melee prompted security officials to open fire, leaving five people dead and scores injured, said magistrate Kazi Ziaul Baset.
Security officials were ordered to fire after the situation went out of control when the mob attacked the presiding officer after holding him hostage, he said.
Pirojpur’s superintendent of police Walid Hossain too said authorities had no choice but to act.
Six more people were killed in clashes in some other districts on Tuesday, officials said.
Elections to 712 Union Parishads were held in the first phase on Tuesday. Polls will be held to 4,275 parishads in six phases, with the last phase scheduled for June 4.
According to the Election Commission, the turnout for the first phase was 74%, though some observers were unhappy with the violence and alleged intimidation by members of the ruling party.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed said the polls were “acceptable and peaceful” barring some “stray incidents”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League swept the results as an initial count showed it had bagged 521 posts of chairmen.
But the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia described the polls as “a farce”.
Union Parishads comprise the lowest tier of governance in rural Bangladesh, and each body is headed by a chairman. This is the first time such elections are being held with party symbols.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, an analyst, told Hindustan Times he was shocked by the extent of intimidation and violence during the elections.
“This is nothing but an attempt to establish further control over power. Such naked attempts to establish supremacy in the name of democracy are shameful,” he said.