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Business News/ News / World/  Bangladesh Elections 2024: Will Sheikh Hasina win another term?
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Bangladesh Elections 2024: Will Sheikh Hasina win another term?

Bangladesh Elections 2024: The upcoming elections in Bangladesh, set to be held on Sunday, are expected to result in a fourth consecutive term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League, as the main opposition party, BNP, has decided to boycott the polls.

A pedestrian combs his hair while walking past posters of Awami League party featuring their leader and Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ahead of the upcoming general elections, in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. Bangladesh votes January 7 in an election guaranteed to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her fifth term in office, after a boycott by opposition parties whose ranks have been decimated by mass arrests. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (AFP)Premium
A pedestrian combs his hair while walking past posters of Awami League party featuring their leader and Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ahead of the upcoming general elections, in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. Bangladesh votes January 7 in an election guaranteed to give Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her fifth term in office, after a boycott by opposition parties whose ranks have been decimated by mass arrests. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (AFP)

Bangladesh Elections 2024: Bangladesh is set to hold elections on Sunday, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed anticipated to secure a fourth consecutive term. The main opposition party, BNP, is abstaining from the elections, citing violence, and has declared a 48-hour nationwide strike in protest against the perceived “illegal government."

The country's Election Commission reports that over 119.6 million registered voters are eligible to cast their votes at more than 42,000 polling stations on Sunday.

The upcoming election will witness participation from over 1,500 candidates representing 27 political parties, along with 436 independent candidates. The 12th general election, conducted under stringent security measures, will be closely monitored by over 100 foreign observers, including three from India.

The Election Commission has announced its anticipation for the results to commence early on January 8.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League is poised to secure victory for the fourth consecutive time. This likelihood is reinforced by the absence of the main Opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by former premier Khaleda Zia, 78, who is currently under house arrest due to graft charges and has chosen to boycott the polls.

Also Read: The significance of Bangladesh’s election for India

In a televised address this week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, urged pro-democratic and law-abiding parties not to promote ideas that could disrupt the country's constitutional process.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has declared a 48-hour nationwide general strike set to commence on Saturday.

Protest against Sheikh Hasina

Out of the 27 political parties participating in the elections, the Jatiya Party (JAPA) represents the opposition, while the remaining parties are part of the ruling Awami League-led coalition, often referred to by experts as “satellite parties."

As a component of its election boycott strategy, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) announced a 48-hour nationwide general strike scheduled from 6 am on January 6 to 6 am on January 8. The party asserts that no election held under the current government would be deemed fair and credible.

BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi announced the strike, saying it was aimed to press for their demands for “resignation of the illegal government, establishment of a non-party neutral government and release of all party leaders and activists from prison".

Also Read: Opposition on the run as Bangladesh preps for elections, more than 10,000 arrested

In the lead-up to the elections, Prime Minister Hasina's government took measures to arrest tens of thousands of rival politicians and supporters. This action has been criticized by rights groups, who condemn it as an attempt to cripple the opposition.

Prime Minister Hasina said, “The Awami League, whenever it came to power, ensured the economic and social development of the people of the country."

Authorities deployed Army troops across the country two days ago “in aid of civil administration" to maintain peace and order during the voting.

In defiance of stringent security measures, unidentified individuals launched homemade bomb and arson attacks at vacant polling centres in four out of the 64 administrative districts. Also, clashes between BNP activists and the police occurred in another district, resulting in injuries to five individuals on Friday.

Bangladesh Elections 2024: Mohammad Sirajul Islam, 60, speaks with Mohammad Shojol Hossain next to a poster seeking justice for Hossain's father Fazlur Rahman, an opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activist, outside their home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. The BNP say Kajol is among 10 of their members who have died in custody after thousands of their supporters and politicians have been arrested on what they say are trumped-up charges in the lead-up to the polls. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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Bangladesh Elections 2024: Mohammad Sirajul Islam, 60, speaks with Mohammad Shojol Hossain next to a poster seeking justice for Hossain's father Fazlur Rahman, an opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activist, outside their home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. The BNP say Kajol is among 10 of their members who have died in custody after thousands of their supporters and politicians have been arrested on what they say are trumped-up charges in the lead-up to the polls. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) (AP)

Meanwhile, at least four people lost their lives when arsonists set fire to a passenger train near Dhaka on Friday night.

Also Read: Bangladesh election 2024: 4 killed after train set on fire ahead of Sheikh Hasina vs Khaleda Zia clash

In response, the BNP has called for a UN-supervised investigation into the incident, characterizing it as a "pre-planned" act of sabotage.

Bangladesh Elections 2024: Bangladeshi fire fighters search through a burnt-out carriage of the Benapole Express in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. Five people were killed in Bangladesh after a passenger train which was arriving in the capital Dhaka from the western city of Jessore, caught fire on January 5, 2024, with police suspecting an arson attack during unrest ahead of national elections boycotted by the opposition. (Photo by Abdul Goni / AFP)
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Bangladesh Elections 2024: Bangladeshi fire fighters search through a burnt-out carriage of the Benapole Express in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. Five people were killed in Bangladesh after a passenger train which was arriving in the capital Dhaka from the western city of Jessore, caught fire on January 5, 2024, with police suspecting an arson attack during unrest ahead of national elections boycotted by the opposition. (Photo by Abdul Goni / AFP) (AFP)

The Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), has remarked that the country is at a critical juncture.

“Bangladesh is at a critical juncture. The once vibrant, if imperfect democracy will soon hold a third election without a credible alternative to the incumbent government," it said in a recent report.

The think tank said, “While it was now too late to delay the January election, the Awami League and BNP should work after the vote to de-escalate the country's political tensions, including through concessions by both sides."

Also Read: Bangladesh pre-poll violence: 5 dead as Benapole Express train catches fire, several Indians believed to be on board

As reported by PTI, political science professor and analyst Harunur Rashid said he feared Bangladesh might need to wait for an indefinite period to witness a congenial political atmosphere because of the highly conflicting nature between the two major parties.

Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Kader on Friday said, “There was no perfect democracy anywhere in the world, but BNP's participation could have made the upcoming elections more competitive."

Emerging from a meeting with the Commonwealth Observer Group, Kader said, "They have agreed with us that nowhere in the world there is a cent per cent or perfect democracy".

He said an unprecedented “mass tide" has been created in favour of the party across the country ahead of the elections.

Expressing hope for a national election conducted in a free, fair, and peaceful manner, he emphasized that the election symbolizes a festival of democracy for the people of Bangladesh, with the current instance being no exception.

Also Read: Bangladesh Shows the Limits of Biden’s ‘Democracy Promotion’

“Ignoring the severe cold, the people have welcomed the election and taken part in the polls campaign. A mass tide has been created across the country in favour of the boat (the Awami Party's election symbol)," Kader said.

He commented on the BNP's general strike on election day and said it is now an “obsolete tool" in Bangladesh's politics.

Sheikh Hasina's political journey

Having assumed power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina has been in office since, securing victory in the last election in December 2019. However, that poll was marred by deadly violence and accusations of election rigging.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had boycotted the 2014 election but participated in the 2019 polls, later deeming it a mistake and alleging widespread rigging and intimidation. While the BNP's initial decision to boycott posed a challenge to the legitimacy of the January 7 polls, the situation evolved as the ruling party decided to spare 26 seats for Jatiya Party (JAPA), prompting them to participate and withdraw their candidates.

The Awami League further allocated six seats to its allies within the 14-party ruling alliance. Prime Minister Hasina encouraged independent and rebel candidates to participate in the election, emphasizing the importance of inclusive polling. The ruling party concurrently conducted a campaign to promote high voter turnout.

Also Read: Bangladesh protests: Opposition wants Sheikh Hasina to resign, here's why

Senior BNP leader Abdul Moyeen Khan on Friday called the government efforts “childish", proving its “political bankruptcy".

Analysts and watchdogs have expressed concerns that the country, with a population of 170 million, is veering toward virtual one-party rule. Many voters have noted a lack of enthusiasm for participating in the elections, anticipating the reelection of the incumbent government.

Also Read: 'I was once Delhi's secret resident when...':Bangladesh PM ahead of India visit

The economic slowdown in Bangladesh has been exacerbated by the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, which led to increased prices of fuel and food imports. To address economic challenges, Bangladesh sought a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), securing USD 4.7 billion last year.

There is widespread concern that a potential fourth consecutive term for Prime Minister Hasina could exacerbate the economic challenges, further deepening the sense of despair among the populace.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Published: 06 Jan 2024, 02:14 PM IST
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