Voting has started in Bangladesh’s contentious parliamentary elections.

The polls Sunday in the South Asian nation are seen as a referendum on what critics call 71-year-old Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

Hasina’s main rival is former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who’s in prison for corruption.

In Zia’s absence, the opposition is led by Kamal Hossain, an 82-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer and former member of Hasina’s Awami League party.

The election campaign has been marred by allegations from the opposition of arrests and jailing of thousands of Hasina opponents.

While rights groups sound the alarms about the erosion of Bangladesh’s democracy, Hasina has promoted a different narrative, highlighting an ambitious economic agenda that has propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbors Pakistan and India by some development measures.

Bangladeshi police personnel seal the voting material at a distribution center before being transported to polling stations on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi police personnel seal the voting material at a distribution center before being transported to polling stations on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi polling officials accompanied by police personnel wait inside a bus before leaving for a polling station on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi polling officials accompanied by police personnel wait inside a bus before leaving for a polling station on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh's opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh’s opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi army soldiers sit inside a vehicle as they patrol the streets on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi army soldiers sit inside a vehicle as they patrol the streets on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi polling officials check the voting material at a distribution center before being transported to polling stations on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladeshi polling officials check the voting material at a distribution center before being transported to polling stations on the eve of the general elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh's opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh’s opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh's opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Bangladesh’s opposition coalition leader Kamal Hossain speaks to Associated Press at his residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Source: The Associated Press