Low turnout due to opposition boycott, fog: Bangladesh CEC

Bangladesh Chief Election Commissioner on Sunday blamed boycott by opposition parties and thick fog for low voter turnout in the controversial polls held amid deadly clashes.

Dhaka: Bangladesh Chief Election Commissioner on Sunday blamed boycott by opposition parties and thick fog for low voter turnout in the controversial polls held amid deadly clashes.

"The turnout rate will be lower for rational reasons because some parties did not join the elections. Besides, thick fog gripped some districts in northern region. That is why voter turn out rate was low," Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told reporters, without giving details of the turnout.

Protesters hurled crude bombs at polling centres and stole ballot papers during the "one-sided" contest boycotted by the 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

On reports of rigging by Awami League candidates, Ahmad was quoted by the Daily Star as saying, "We are conducting inquiry into all the allegations submitted to the commission. We have strictly directed the law enforcers and electoral officials to take stern action against any anomaly. There is no scope for vote rigging."

Deadly violence flared across the country despite tens of thousands of security personnel deployed to maintain law and order as 19 people were killed and over 200 polling stations torched in poll-related violence.

Voting at 161 polling centres in 22 constituencies across the country was postponed due to snatching and torching of ballot papers and boxes.

Meanwhile, minister Mohammad Quamrul Islam told journalists after casting his vote that the elections would be "acceptable", despite poor turnout.

The BNP-led opposition had demanded postponement of the polls and setting up of a non-party caretaker government, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the demands. Political violence during strikes enforced by the opposition since November have left over 150 people dead.