The coalition led by Bangladesh Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League posted a landslide victory in the nation’s parliamentary polls on Sunday, even as the main opposition party sought fresh elections. Mint analyses why the polls are a defining moment.
Why were the polls significant?
With Sunday’s win, Sheikh Hasina took office as Bangladesh’s prime minister for the third straight term, bringing some stability to the country of 165 million people. Under Hasina, Bangladesh’s economic growth has soared, averaging over 7%. In her poll manifesto, she promised 9% growth if voted back to power. As the Rohingya crisis deepened in Myanmar, her move to take in the refugees was appreciated by the international community. But sections within the country, as well as international human rights organizations and governments, are not entirely convinced the poll process was free and fair.
What are the challenges for Hasina?
Even as she consolidated her grip on the country, Hasina has been accused of human rights violations, cracking down on the media and muzzling dissent, and the eventual disappearance of dissenters. Even as she faces the task of bringing a country wracked by violence back on its feet, the Awami League has faced allegations of targeting activists and stifling democratic voices. Draconian laws that heavily censor and control online content and blogs have been passed and used against targets, the most recent being photographer Shahidul Alam for his criticism of the government.
Does Hasina face any opposition?
For now, she stands unopposed. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party is rudderless with its chief and former prime minister Khaleda Zia in prison on graft charges.
How does her win impact India?
Hasina’s victory is a positive development for India, which has been a stable ally during her term. The return of a trustworthy ally in economic cooperation and in the fight against terrorism bodes well for New Delhi. Bangladesh is key to India’s plans to connect with South-East Asia, as well as developing the landlocked Northeast. India’s plans to forge a viable alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation rests on Bangladesh, given its location bridging South Asia and South-East Asia.
What will be the impact on terrorism?
Hasina has assured that no anti-India activity would be allowed on Bangladeshi soil. Since being elected to office for the first time in 2008, she has been determined to fight terrorism. While the two countries share a 4,000km border, it has been peppered by ethnic conflicts, sporadic infiltration and smuggling of fake currency. Under her rule, insurgency dipped in the Northeast, with kingpins of militant groups such as the United Liberation Front of Assam general secretary Anup Chetia being handed over to India.