bangPolls have closed in a general election in Bangladesh that saw deadly clashes and accusations of vote rigging.

At least 12 people have been reported killed from several districts.

The Bangladesh Election Commission told Reuters it had heard vote-rigging allegations from “across the country” and would investigate.

The election is likely to deliver a third straight term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Her main rival is serving a jail term for corruption.

The build-up to the poll was marred by violence and accusations of a crackdown against the opposition. Some 600,000 security personnel were deployed to prevent clashes.

The authorities ordered high-speed internet be shut down until after the vote to prevent the spread of “rumours” that might spark unrest.

Minutes before polls opened, a BBC correspondent saw filled ballot boxes at a polling centre in the port city of Chittagong. The presiding officer declined to comment.

Only ruling party polling agents were present at that and several other polling centres in the second largest city of the country.

Some voters complained to news agencies of intimidation while the local Daily Star newspaper said some constituencies closed for lunch, defying rules requiring uninterrupted voting.

More than 100 million people were eligible to vote but reports suggest turnout has been low.

Why is this election important?

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation of more than 160 million people and faces issues ranging from possibly devastating climate change, Islamist militancy, endemic poverty and corruption.

The country has recently been in the international spotlight as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled there from neighbouring Myanmar.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina casts her vote in the morning during the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, December 30, 2018.Image copyrightREUTERS

The lead-up to the election saw violence between rival supporters and a crackdown on dissent by a government that critics say has only grown more authoritarian during its 10 years in power.

Activists, observers and the opposition party warned that the vote would not be fair. The governing party has accused the opposition of peddling false claims.

Ms Hasina told the BBC on Friday: “On the one hand, they are placing allegations, on the other hand, they are attacking our party workers, leaders. That is the tragedy in this country.”

Who are the contenders?

Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) has run Bangladesh since 2009.

Her long-term rival, Khaleda Zia, was sent to prison on corruption charges earlier this year and barred from competing in the vote, in a case which she claimed was politically motivated.

Police patrol Dhaka, Bangladesh, during a general electionImage copyrightAFP

In Ms Zia’s absence, Kamal Hossain, who was previously both an AL minister and Hasina ally, leads the main opposition grouping, the Jatiya Oikya Front, which includes Ms Zia’s Bangladesh National Party (BNP).

However, the 81-year-old lawyer, who drew up the country’s constitution, is not standing in the election, raising questions as to who would take power should the opposition win.

The BNP boycotted the last vote in 2014. making Sunday’s poll the first to involve all the major parties in 10 years.