Bangladesh’s Ruling Party Wins in a Landslide, But Under Cloud of Questions

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.