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Bangladeshis flock to peaceful polls

Bangladeshis turned out in their droves Monday to vote in elections marking the end of two years of emergency rule, with a pair of rival former prime ministers vying to reclaim power in the impoverished nation.

Amid tight security, the first polls since 2001 saw a turnout as high as 70 percent, with none of the violence that forced the last scheduled vote to be cancelled and an army-backed interim government take control.

Long queues formed early outside voting stations as hundreds of thousands of police and troops stood ready to avert clashes between party activists or any attacks by Islamic extremists.

Despite efforts by the caretaker regime to shake up a political system long seen as deeply corrupt, the two leading candidates were former prime ministers who ruled alternately since 1991 and whose mutual hatred paralysed the country politically.

Sheikh sheikh
 or shaykh

Among Arabic-speaking tribes, especially Bedouin, the male head of the family, as well as of each successively larger social unit making up the tribal structure. The sheikh is generally assisted by an informal tribal council of male elders.
 Hasina Wajed of the Awami League Awami League, political organization in Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was founded in 1949 as an opposition party in Pakistan and had a moderately socialist ideology. , and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Bengali: বাংলাদেশ জাতীয়তাবাদী দল Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Dôl  (BNP BNP B-type natriuretic peptide, brain natriuretic peptide Physiology A 32-residue peptide hormone produced predominantly in the ventricles, secreted in response to fluid overload–eg, CHF. See Atrial natriuretic peptide. ), wooed voters with promises of cheaper food, action against Islamic militancy and curbs on corruption.

elections The women, who were themselves jailed on corruption charges by the current regime before being released to contest the elections, warned of voter fraud but said they would not challenge the result.

After voting in the capital Dhaka, Sheikh Hasina questioned how some ballot papers ballot paper

a paper used for voting

ballot paper npapeleta

ballot paper nbulletin m de vote 
 had been distributed but insisted, "I want the election to take place peacefully. Whatever the result is, we all should accept it."

Zia appeared confident of victory. "If a free and fair election takes place today, we will win with a landslide victory In politics, a landslide victory (or just a landslide) is the victory of a candidate or political party by an overwhelming majority in an election.

Landslides can occur when one candidate or party is perceived as far superior to its opponents, through unfair
 like 2001 election," she said.

Analysts say the result is far from certain with a third of the 81 million electorate voting for the first time, and there are concerns a smooth transfer of power could prove difficult if no clear winner emerges.

voting Election commission secretary Humayun Kabir Humayun Kabir (Bangla: হুমায়ুন কবির) (1906-1969) was an Indian educationist, politician, writer, philosopher. Kabir was born in Faridpur, currently in Bangladesh.  said the turnout had been about 70 percent. Final results were due after midnight (1800 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) See UTC.

GMT - Universal Time 1

Some 50,000 armed troops were on alert nationwide, while 600,000 police officers were deployed to crack down on voter fraud or disruptions at the 35,000 polling booths.

But a UN-funded digital electoral roll electoral roll ncenso electoral

electoral roll n (Brit) → liste électorale

electoral roll n (BRIT
, which has eliminated 12.7 million fake names, appeared to have resolved many of the problems that have hit previous Bangladesh elections.

At one polling station in Dhaka, voters lined up with their new photograph ID cards in hand.

"I'm a first-time voter and the atmosphere couldn't be any better," Mamun Howlader, a 21-year-old mechanic, told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. .

"There's a festive atmosphere. It's fun."

Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former banker who has run Bangladesh under the interim administration, said the polls would "bring back power to an elected government and the country can prosper."

The vote was monitored by some 200,000 electoral observers, including 2,500 from abroad.

Police captured two dozen militants in recent days and seized explosives, grenades and bombs, but campaigning and voting was otherwise free of the widespread unrest witnessed previously.

In one of the few incidents reported Monday, 12 people were injured in a brawl brawl  
1. A noisy quarrel or fight.

2. A loud party.

3. A loud, roaring noise.

intr.v. brawled, brawl·ing, brawls
1. To quarrel or fight noisily.

 between rival supporters outside a polling booth in the south.

Elsewhere, about 25 people were arrested early Monday for handing out cash bribes, and there were minor scuffles between Awami League and BNP supporters.

The army-backed government took power in January 2007 following months of political unrest in which at least 35 people were killed.

The deaths prompted President Iajuddin Ahmed to cancel elections and impose a state of emergency that was lifted only on December 17.

Bangladesh, a desperately poor nation of 144 million people, has a history of coups and counter-coups since winning independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The Awami League and the BNP have often been accused of anti-democratic tactics, with both crippling the country during their spells in opposition by boycotting parliament and staging national strikes.

The winner of Monday's election, either a single party or a coalition, needs a simple majority of the 300 seats in the National Assembly.
Copyright 2008 AFP South Asian Edition
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Publication:AFP South Asian Edition
Date:Dec 29, 2008
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