Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wins elections in Bangladesh (for the fifth time)

The result was a foregone conclusion on the eve of the election: Bangladesh elections once again saw Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emerge victorious, heading for her fifth term in office for the fourth consecutive year. A vote was held on Sunday, January 7, to renew the seats in the National Assembly, the only chamber of the parliament, and according to the final results, Hasina’s party, the Awami League, won 223 of the 299 seats in the parliament. While Awami League’s ally Jatiya Party received 11 votes, a significant number of 61 independent candidates were also able to support it.

Boycott the opposition

His victory was made possible by strong abstentionism: 40 percent of 120 million voters (half of whom were women and mostly young people) went to the polls; In contrast to 80 percent of the votes in 2018, the majority of voters stayed at home in yesterday’s elections. Probably in response to the call of the main opposition party urging citizens not to respond to this “absurd vote”. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the polls after Hasina rejected calls to resign and allow a neutral authority to hold the general elections. However, BNP’s accusations also put pressure on the prime minister; Before the vote, a strong pressure operation took place, which led to the arrest of approximately 25 thousand administrators, including all local leaders, and systematic human rights violations. In response, Hasina accused the opposition of inciting anti-government protests that have rocked Dhaka since late October and left at least 14 people dead. At least four people died in a train fire last week that the government said was arson. Several polling stations, schools and a Buddhist monastery were also set on fire. At least five Awami League activists were attacked and injured in Patuakhali coastal district by supporters of the losing independent candidate, police said.

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Moreover, the elections took place in an environment of tremendous tension: there were clashes between activists and the police; police opened fire on anti-government dissidents who called for a general strike and organized checkpoints to persuade citizens not to go to the polls. . It was alleged that Hasina’s party tried to force citizens to vote in some cases. According to international media reports, some voters were threatened by authorities with confiscation of their government cards required to receive social assistance if they refused to go to the polls.

End of the economic analogy

Hasina downplayed the boycott and the opposition’s accusations and instead focused on the goal of reviving the economy over the next five years. In his last 15 years in power, he was credited with revolutionizing the economy and the giant garment industry, and won international praise for sheltering Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar. But the economy has slowed sharply since the war between Russia and Ukraine increased fuel and food import prices and forced Bangladesh to apply to the International Monetary Fund for a $7 billion, 4-month bailout package last year. Inflation was at 9.5 percent in November.

Threat to the country’s democracy

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed along with most of her family members in a military coup in 1975. Hasina appears to have shed the clothes of the leader of the struggle for democracy and put on the clothes of authoritarianism in favor of women and the poorest segments of the population. The 76-year-old prime minister has called the main opposition party a “terrorist organisation”, but the party’s authoritarian and repressive attitude represents the real threat to Bangladesh’s democracy.

Source: Today IT

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