Bangladesh’s Ruling Party Wins in a Landslide, But Under Cloud of Questions
- January 10, 2019
Bangladesh held its 11th parliamentary election on December 30, 2018, with more than 104 million citizens registered to vote. The ruling Awami League and its Grand Alliance coalition won a landslide victory, obtaining 287 seats out of 298 for which results have been announced, or more than 95 per cent of total seats. In sharp contrast, the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), won only six seats. Incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will now serve a third consecutive term.
In the lead-up to the election, observers raised concerns about signs of “creeping authoritarianism” in Bangladesh, such as the passage of a digital security law. The opposition alliance alleges that thousands of its activists have been arrested. Dozens and possibly hundreds have disappeared. There were also controversies surrounding election day, such as the deaths of 17 people, and allegations of ballot box stuffing and voter suppression. The United Nations expressed concerns over human rights violations during the election season, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged an independent investigation into election irregularities. Meanwhile, the governments of key international partners such as India and China congratulated Ms. Hasina on her election victory.
Sheikh Hasina begins her new term with the economic winds at her back: Bangladesh’s per capita GDP has increased by threefold since she took office in 2008 and the growth rate as of 2017 was over seven per cent.
Fairness, Legitimacy of Upcoming Bangladesh Elections Called Into Question
- December 13, 2018
National elections in Bangladesh are just weeks away, and the controversies surrounding the country’s highly polarized politics show no signs of abating. The elections, which will take place on December 30, are primarily a contest between the ruling Awami League, which is seeking its fourth consecutive term, and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and its new coalition, the Jatiya Oikya (United National) Front. With the election quickly approaching, the opposition is alleging abuses of power by the Awami League, including steps to silence its critics. Recently, the BNP accused the Election Commission, the body responsible for overseeing the election, of bias after it rejected nearly a quarter of the nominations put forward by the BNP. Furthermore, on December 9, the BNP said close to 2,000 of its supporters had been detained by the police on fraudulent charges.
This latest alleged suppression is capping off what many observers see as a troubling year for Bangladesh’s democracy and freedom of expression. In October 2018, the parliament passed the controversial Digital Securities Act (DSA), a law that could see dissidents jailed for criticizing the government. The law has been widely criticized by human rights groups and helped prompt a motion for a resolution by the European Parliament expressing concern about the human rights situation in Bangladesh. The EU has also said it will not send election observers, saying it does not believe the elections will be fair. The United States, in contrast, announced recently that it intends to send observers as well as to fund local observers to document instances of voter intimidation or ballot rigging.
For months, experts on Bangladeshi politics have raised concerns that Bangladesh is sliding toward one-party rule. Whether those concerns are valid may depend on the election’s outcome and how it is conducted.
Bangladesh to Hold December Election Amid Political Turmoil
- November 15, 2018
After weeks of uncertainty, Bangladesh has re-scheduled its 11th general elections for December 30, 2018. Following talks between the ruling Awami League and the new opposition alliance, Jatiya Oikya Front, the date of the election was deferred by one week, giving the opposition parties more time to prepare. The two largest political parties are the centre-left Awami League and the centre-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The Awami League is led by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been in power since 2008. The BNP is led by Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister who was jailed earlier this year over allegations of embezzling funds from an orphanage trust. Her defenders say the charges are trumped up. The BNP won elections in 1991, 1996, and 2001, but boycotted them in 2014.
Until recently, the Awami League was expected to romp to an easy victory, but the new opposition alliance could drastically shake up Bangladesh's election landscape. The Jatiya Oikya Front includes both the BNP and an Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. The new alliance, headed by Kamal Hossain, has pressured the current government to meet its demands, which include the release of Khaleda Zia from prison and the swearing in of a caretaker government to oversee the election. The Awami League has so far refused both requests.
In the 2014 general election, the Awami League won 234 out of 300 seats in the Jatiya Sangshad, the Bangladesh Parliament, amid the opposition's boycotts and election-related violence.