Angry populace: An activist argues with police in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, last week. Photo: Reuters
Bangladesh's hopes for a free, fair, and peaceful election are dead.
The result is already known. But certainty over the ballot means only uncertainty for the future of the country.
A boycott of the controversial poll by almost all opposition parties has resulted in 154 seats in the 300-member parliament already decided in walkovers, the majority in favour of the government.
An unpopular administration will hold power, but it will be a victory without legitimacy.
It will mean only more of what Bangladesh has endured for months in the lead-up to these polls – more strikes and more economic paralysis, more violence and many, many more deaths.
Bangladesh's population of more than 150 million live on a landmass only two-thirds the size of Victoria. Nearly 50 million Bangladeshis live on less than $2 dollars a day.
The country's massive, poor population has been betrayed by its wealthy, self-interested political class.
The two most powerful women in the country - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and opposition leader Khaleda Zia - have allowed their personal enmity to poison the country's hopes for progress.
The widow and daughter respectively of two of Bangladesh's earliest post-independence leaders, the two women have dominated Bangladeshi politics for decades, but served the country poorly.
Outside their apparatchik bases, they are deeply unpopular, but give no indication they are ready to abdicate. They both have sons, waiting overseas for their chance to return and to lead, so the country will suffer their influence for years yet.
Sheikh Hasina's governing Awami League and Mrs Zia's opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party have negotiated for weeks, with UN help, over how January five's elections should be conducted,
but talks have yielded nothing. The country's democracy is held hostage by politicians who mistake obstinacy for strength.
And other parties are similarly malign. The Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami, allied to the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party, was outlawed by a court ban. Some of its members have responded by behaving like outlaws.
Jamaat calls regular hartals – nationwide strikes – that are violently enforced by its members who man road barricades, harass citizens on the streets, and destroy businesses that have the temerity to open their doors.
As always, it is the most vulnerable who suffer most. The sick and dying can't get to hospital without being beaten, stoned, or having their cars set on fire.
Unable to go to school, millions of Bangladeshi schoolchildren will not sit exams this year.
The government is no more concerned with the public good than its opponents, only with holding on to power.
A war crimes tribunal to prosecute those who committed atrocities during the war of independence in 1971 is a desirable thing, particularly for a people for whom the violence of that conflict remains a deep psychological scar. But the ruling Awami League has used the tribunal to pursue its enemies. Defendants have not been afforded a proper defence, nor the right to appeal.
The hanging, last week, of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla, in spite of an international outcry, was deliberately inflammatory.
On the streets of Bangladesh, more than 200 people have died this year in pre-election violence. Many more are expected to die after the election.
The poll will happen, but Sheikh Hasina's new administration is not expected to survive more than a few months. After a similarly meaningless poll in 1996, the government fell in 11 days.
The country is braced for worsening violence, and many talk – some wistfully - of a return to military rule.
Elections are judged not by who wins, but by how free and fair and inclusive they are. By any standards, Bangladesh's will be no election at all.