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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bangladesh’s democracy faces pressure as Hasina is reelected amid a boycott by opposition events

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has swept to energy for a fourth consecutive time period in Bangladesh, following an election on Sunday that was boycotted by opposition events and roiled by violent protests and worldwide scrutiny.

Her Awami League celebration received 224 seats out of 299, in response to native media, cementing a majority in Parliament and increasing her 15-year-long rule that has already made Hasina one of the vital defining and divisive leaders within the nation’s historical past.

Official outcomes from the Election Fee have been anticipated later Monday.

Hasina’s victory, which was broadly seen as inevitable, got here amid low voter turnout at 40% in a severely fractured local weather that noticed opposition members jailed forward of the polls. The clampdown on political foes and stifling of dissent, analysts say, places Bangladesh’s democracy in a fragile place, dangers triggering political turmoil and will check a few of its diplomatic ties.

Campaigning was rife with violence and the principle opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Get together and its allies boycotted the election saying that Hasina’s authorities couldn’t oversee free and honest polls.

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“This isn’t a narrative of a thumping, resounding response from the individuals. There’s a query mark within the public’s thoughts about this election, so the outcome that has come will face this taint,” stated Avinash Paliwal, who makes a speciality of South Asia relations at London’s SOAS College.

It has additionally spotlighted a difficult electoral report, with the most recent polls being the third within the final 15 years to be dogged by credibility issues. The earlier two votes have been broadly seen as flawed with allegations of vote-rigging, which authorities denied, and one other opposition boycott. All three elections have been held underneath Hasina’s rule.

The primary opposition celebration has rejected the most recent outcomes as a one-sided election.

That is doubtless “to ratchet up moderately than rein in political tensions” and fan additional polarization and distrust as an alternative of reconciliation, stated Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute on the Wilson Middle.

The federal government has constantly defended the polls as open and inclusive, however critics have identified that many smaller opposition teams and unbiased candidates belonged to the ruling celebration, which left voters with few choices.

Whereas Hasina is usually credited with presiding over Bangladesh’s spectacular development lately, consultants say its financial system is now sputtering. The nation’s international change reserves have dwindled to lower than three months value of imports, the value of groceries has surged and a wave of labor protests from the nation’s prized garment trade has highlighted dissatisfaction with the federal government.

Specialists say financial discontent is already mounting and widespread in Bangladesh, which suggests Hasina’s dealing with of the financial system can be key going ahead, particularly to regain legitimacy amongst disenchanted voters who skipped the polls.

The political tumult surrounding the election additionally dangers straining Bangladesh’s ties with the U.S., the largest purchaser of its garment exports. Relations between the 2 sides have been tense for months, particularly after Washington vowed to impose visa restrictions on anybody disrupting the electoral course of in a bid to make sure that the federal government held a professional election. The transfer irked Hasina, who accused the U.S. of attempting to plot her ouster.

Pierre Prakash, Asia director on the Worldwide Disaster Group, a assume tank that researches world battle, stated the U.S. made Bangladesh a showcase of the Biden administration’s values-based international coverage, which emphasizes human rights and democratic freedoms.

Dhaka is a vital commerce and strategic accomplice for Washington in Asia, the place it’s attempting to counter Chinese language affect, however the Biden administration has nonetheless been vocal about its issues surrounding the election.

“We’ll must see how the U.S. behaves. There may very well be sanctions on the horizon, however we do not know for positive,” Prakash stated, including that these may goal people or apply extra broadly to a sector, which might extra adversely pinch residents.

Bangladesh’s regional neighbors are prone to welcome Hasina’s reelection. Her powerful stance on terror, non-aligned international coverage and efforts to assist Rohingya refugees — “all of this has made her authorities, warts and all, absolutely acceptable to a lot of the world,” Kugelman stated.

Hasina has additionally received help from Russia, which is constructing a nuclear plant within the nation, and maintained ties with the European Union, a serious commerce accomplice that analysts say can be watching developments intently.

Her largest backer stays India, which has invested in a number of infrastructure initiatives because it jostles for affect towards rival China within the area.

Whereas that’s unlikely to alter within the brief run, Paliwal at SOAS stated there may be rising anti-India sentiment amid perceptions that New Delhi’s help has enabled Hasina’s controversial rise and authoritarian flip.

“This narrative is taking root, and New Delhi can be watching as a result of it might’t write off the political issues which are rising inside the nation,” he stated, including that the low voter turnout is a serious blow to the Awami League. “This may reshape the calculus of Hasina’s worldwide allies and adversaries alike within the coming weeks.”


AP journalist Julhas Alam contributed reporting.

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