Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured her fifth term in office. The election results, announced by the Election Commission, show a victory for Hasina’s Awami League, granting them a majority in the parliament. This victory positions her to become the longest-serving prime minister in Bangladesh’s history.
The 12th parliamentary election saw a set of circumstances, with the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), choosing to boycott the polls.
The BNP’s decision stemmed from their demands for Hasina’s resignation and the appointment of a neutral authority to oversee the election, demands that were rejected by the ruling Awami League. This boycott set the stage for a one-sided electoral contest.
The voter turnout in this election, however, was low, standing at around 40% compared to over 80% in the previous election in 2018.
The low participation could be Contribute to a combination of factors, including the BNP’s boycott, concerns about the fairness of the election, and a general sense of disillusionment among the electorate.
Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, first assumed the role of prime minister in 1996.
Over her past 15 years in power, she has been credited with orchestrating economic reforms and transforming the country’s massive garments industry.
Her leadership has received international acclaim, particularly for providing shelter to Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
During her tenure, Bangladesh experienced economic growth, and Hasina successfully navigated the challenges by the Russia-Ukraine war, seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund for a bailout of $4.7 billion.
However, some say that her government’s record is marred by allegations of authoritarianism, human rights violations, crackdowns on free speech, and suppression of dissent.
The Awami League’s victory in securing 167 seats out of 227, with the outcome of the remaining seats yet to be officially announced, this shows the party’s dominance in the current politics.
The opposition’s accusations of propping up dummy independent candidates to create the appearance of a credible election have been denied by the ruling party.
Reactions to Sheikh Hasina’s re-election have varied. While her supporters commend her for economic achievements and providing stability, critics, including human rights organizations, express concerns about alleged rights abuses and the stifling of political dissent.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, has expressed deep concern about the repressive environment surrounding the polls.
The BNP’s decision to boycott the election and call for a nationwide strike shows their dissatisfaction with the political environment under Hasina’s leadership.
The party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman, accuses the ruling party of orchestrating a fake election and using tactics such as propping up independent candidates to undermine their boycott.
While the ruling party dismisses the opposition’s claims and asserts that the people have rejected the BNP’s boycott, the low voter turnout suggests a level of discontent among the electorate.
The BNP plans its anti-government movement through peaceful public engagement programs, to establish the people’s right to vote.
The Election Commission’s decision to cancel the candidacy of an Awami League candidate in Chattogram due to misconduct is a controversy.