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Troubled Bangladesh vote won't end crippling blockades (+video)

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(Read caption) Bangladesh's ruling Awami League won a violence-plagued parliamentary election whose outcome was never in doubt after a boycott by the main opposition party. With fewer than half of the 300 seats being contested, voters in modest numbers cast ballots on Sunday amid heavy security in polling that lacked the festivity typical of Bangladeshi elections and was shunned by international observers as flawed. Low voter participation could pile new pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to find a compromise with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party for holding new elections. Either Hasina or BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia has been prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years. The two are bitter rivals.

The polls have closed in Bangladesh’s Sunday national elections, with the ruling Awami League expected to cruise to a pre-ordained victory amid a mass opposition boycott. But the country’s bitter political gridlock is expected to continue, and so will the hartals and blockades, which have a debilitating practical effect on everyday work life in Bangladesh.

Hartals, our correspondent on the ground in Dhaka explains, are basically general strikes during which party activists ensure that “there is no transport on the street anywhere” in terms of cars and buses – and they have a long history in Bangladesh’s turbulent political culture. Blockades, in which activists effectively block the roads in and out of major cities, have taken a toll on the country’s vital garment trade.

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The opposition Bangladesh National Party’s near-constant call for hartals and blockades during the last few months brought many forms of business grinding to a halt, with many work weeks reduced to just a handful of days.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Frontier Markets.

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