Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Year : 1, Issue : 19
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured her fourth straight term in a controversial election. Sheikh Hasina will serve another five years in office after her party the Awami League and its allies won 223 of 300 parliamentary seats contested. With the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotting the poll, Hasina’s party and allies are expected to win the remaining seats as well.
The BNP alleged the poll was a sham. Sunday’s result comes after mass arrests of BNP leaders and supporters.
Official figures suggested a low voter turnout of about 40%, though critics say even those numbers may be inflated. In comparison, the last election in 2018 had a voter turnout of more than 80%.
Political analyst Badiul Alam Majumder told the BBC that the election commission was inflating the voter turnout. “From different sources and media reports, we have seen that the turnout (provided by the election commission) doesn’t match with the reality,” he said. Independents, almost all of them from the Awami League itself, won 45 seats and the Jatiya Party won eight seats. Results are expected to be announced officially later on Monday.
It is the fifth term in total for Sheikh Hasina, who first became prime minister in 1996 and was re-elected in 2009, remaining in power since. “I am trying my best to ensure that democracy should continue in this country,” she told reporters as she cast her vote. Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader told reporters that Sheikh Hasina had instructed party leaders and supporters not to hold victory processions or indulge in celebrations.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that nearly 10,000 activists were arrested after an opposition rally on 28 October turned violent, resulting in the deaths of at least 16 people and injuring more than 5,500. It accused the government of “filling prisons with the ruling Awami League’s political opponents”.
The Awami League has denied these accusations.
Fears have been raised that this new victory for the Awami League could lead to de-facto one party rule. Very few expect the government to relax its crackdown. More so, if opposition parties and civil society groups continue to raise questions over the legitimacy of the government.
The BNP boycotted the election after the Awami League rejected their demands for an independent caretaker government to preside over the polls. Until then, “our peaceful and non-violent movement will vigorously continue,” Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman of the BNP told the BBC by email from London where he has lived since 2008.