DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition on Sunday swept mayoral elections in four cities in a major setback for the ruling party ahead of general polls.
The centre-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won by big margins in the major cities of Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal, Election Commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman told the reporter.
In the third largest city of Khulna, home to about one million people, BNP candidate Moniruzzaman Moni beat the incumbent Abdul Khaleque by a margin of 60,671 votes. Analysts said the results reflected a nationwide erosion of support for the ruling Awami League party six months ahead of general elections, while the growing influence of hardliners who backed the BNP after their traditional parties did not contest contributed to the huge margins of victory.
“In mayoral elections local issues play important role but the results are a verdict against the government’s poor performance,” said Ataur Rahman, a former professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s centre-left Awami League party won the December 2008 polls by a landslide but her tenure has been hit by series of high profile graft scandals.
The BNP, led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, has won power three times.
Separately, more than 140 workers, mostly women, at two Bangladeshi garment factories near the capital Dhaka fell ill on Sunday after drinking suspected contaminated water in their workplace, police said.
A series of tragedies since last November when a fire killed 111 people in another factory have triggered renewed scrutiny of “made-in-Bangladesh” clothes commonly sold in the West.
Sunday’s development comes less than two weeks after up to 600 workers at another garment plant were rushed to hospital after falling sick due to contaminated water.
The incidents follow the collapse of a building housing five garment factories in April that killed 1,129 people, highlighting appalling safety conditions in Bangladesh’s 4,500 garment factories.
Police inspector Humayun Kabir told the reporter that several garment workers — most of them women — fell sick on Sunday at two garment plants at Joydevpur, an industrial town north of Dhaka.