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Bangladesh’s growth-minded iron lady vies for re-election

Bangladesh’s growth-minded iron lady vies for re-election

DHAKA: Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is poised to win a record fourth term in Sunday’s elections, drumming up support by promising a development bonanza as her critics question if the South Asian nation’s tremendous economic success has come at the expense of its already fragile democracy.

Sunday’s polls, the 11th since Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971, pits 71-year-old Hasina against a united opposition helmed by Kamal Hossain, 82, an Oxford-educated lawyer and former foreign minister. Notably absent is another septuagenarian: former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, 74, Hasina’s arch-rival and the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who courts ruled was ineligible to run from her colonial-era Dhaka jail cell, where she’s serving a 17-year sentence for corruption.

Hasina and Zia have been in and out of power and prison for decades, vying to run the young Muslim-majority country of 160 million. The BNP boycotted the 2014 polls. As a result, voter turnout was only 22 percent, according to Bangladesh’s Election Commission. More than half of the 300 seats in Parliament were uncontested. Dozens died in post-election violence.