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Bangladesh election makes mockery of democracy: BNP’s Alamgir | News

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Dhaka, Bangladesh – The leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has said that Sunday’s general election was a “fraud” and marred by widespread irregularities.

“Yesterday’s election was totally fraud,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the general secretary of BNP, told Al Jazeera after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina registered an unprecedented victory.

The ruling Awami League (AL) captured 288 out of 298 seats for which elections were held, winning a whopping 96 percent of the seats, drawing criticism from the opposition.

“Ballot papers were stuffed on the night before the election. Except for few, irregularities were found in almost all the constituencies. It was preplanned, and the result was decided much earlier,” Alamgir alleged.

The BNP leader said that the vote rigging was facilitated by “the government agencies, the police and other law enforcement agencies in collaboration with election commission officials”.

This election will destroy people’s remaining faith in election system in Bangladesh.

Asif Nazrul, professor of law at Dhaka University

“This is a mockery of democracy. Bangladesh has lost an opportunity to comeback to democracy,” said Alamgir, who is among the seven candidates to win their seats.

The opposition party had boycotted the last election held in 2014.

The massive win reminded of the controversial February 1996 parliamentary elections in which the BNP won 278 seats amid boycotts. It had triggered countrywide protests forcing the BNP out.

Call for fresh election

Later on Monday, the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front) re-iterated their demands for fresh election under a “nonpartisan government”.

“A drama in the name of national election was staged yesterday and the countrymen perceived from their hearts that how the election process of a sovereign country was destroyed,” Kamal Hossain, convener of the Jatiya Oikya Front, said at a press conference on Monday.

Hossain, a former ally of Hasina and a well-respected jurist, became the face of the opposition alliance as the BNP leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was barred from polls because of corruption conviction. 

The front said it will submit a memorandum to the election commission on Thursday.

But at a press conference held at the election commission office in Dhaka Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda put to rest the opposition demand for re-election.

“There is no scope to hold the national election again,” Huda said a day after the 11th general election.

The CEC on Monday put its stamp on the unofficial results, and added that the voter turnout in the violence-marred polls was 80 percent.

The fatigue of the month-long election process was visible on Dhaka’s roads on Monday where traffic was thin with para-military vehicles still making rounds of the streets.

‘Kicked out of the polling booth’

Meanwhile, many Bangladeshi voters came on social media to share their stories, some of them complaining of irregularities on the election day.





Mahbub Uddin Khokon blamed the “fraudulent” election for his defeat [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Shaquib Ahmed, a Dhaka resident, told Al Jazeera that he was kicked out of the polling booth after he voted for the BNP.

“There was no curtained area in the room to vote. As I put my seal on the BNP symbol a man standing beside me snatched the ballot paper away and shouted, ‘what do you think you are doing?'” he said.

The 34-year-old Ahmed says he was later abused at Dhaka’s Tejgaon College polling centre. “I did not protest as there were other people with him and it was very intimidating,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera.

Mahbub Uddin Khokon, a former BNP member of parliament, blamed the “fraudulent” election for his defeat in Noakhali 1 constituency.

“The election commission and the government collectively committed fraud against the nation, the voter, and the constitution,” said Khokon, who is the secretary of Supreme Court Bar Council.

“The night before the election they stuffed ballot boxes in each centre with the help of the police,” he alleged.

“I met with the chief election commissioner three times before the election to take action against the police who were lodging false cases against opposition members. He did not do anything.”

Hasina rejects rigging charges

But Prime Minister Hasina, who is set for a fourth term in office, rejected the vote rigging charges, saying people voted her party to power for development work done in her 10-year rule.





More than 600,000 security forces were deployed to prevent violence [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

“The countrymen have gained benefit of the development work of my government, and thus they cast their votes for us,” She told foreign observers on Monday.

Hasina has led Bangladesh on path of rapid economic growth and plans to turn this poor South Asian nation of 160 million people into a middle income country by 2021.

An election observer from India, a close ally of Bangladesh, lauded election as “peaceful”. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to congratulate Hasina on securing absolute a majority in 350-member parliament. Another 50 seats are reserved for women.

Many observers from South Asian countries, Al Jazeera spoke to, said that some polling stations were not crowded and in many cases wore a deserted look.

Abdur Rahman Salah Rasheed was one of the election observers who was taken to four polling stations in Gazipur.

Rasheed, the acting secretary general of election commission of Maldives, said that in the morning polling centres were “deserted”.

“We asked them why there are not many people. They told us it was foggy and early morning. Some of the places were crowded though.





Chief Election Commissioner Huda ruled out re-election [Al Jazeera]

“We went to Dhaka 17 centre for counting but did not find any opposition polling agent. We even asked them where is opposition?”

One member of observer mission, who refused to be identified, showed his bafflement at the scale of the ruling party’s victory.

At least 19 people were killed in Sunday’s election, which was marred by reports of voting irregularities such as ballot stuffing and intimidation.

An observer team from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Sunday said the vote was peaceful. “We have heard the news about the deaths, but they do not reflect the overall situation, which was peaceful,” it said in a press release.

“The election was credible based on all acceptable standards,” Hameed A Opeloyeru, the head of the observer team told reporters.

The election was credible based on all acceptable standards.

Hameed A Opeloyeru, head of the OIC observer team

But Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), in a written statement released on Monday, expressed concern at the allegations of misconduct during the election.

It called for forming a judicial committee to investigate the allegations.

Leading up to the polls, opposition complained of mass arrests and intimidation by police and ruling party supporters, but the government said the accusations were “exaggerated”.

Asif Nazrul, a professor of law at Dhaka University, said “the election will destroy people’s remaining faith in election system in Bangladesh”.

“It was not an election at all. It was an ugly and brutal hijacking of people’s right to choose their representative by all the state apparatus in alliance with ruling party goons.

“It would lead into tyranny and hurt the dignity of the society very deeply,” he said.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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