Bangladesh– Election or Careful Selection?

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is heading for a sweeping win in the general elections for the fourth term. Amidst all the violence that ensued, over 14 people were injured and killed in clashes between the supporters of the opposition. Ms. Hasina’s political career has spanned over 4 decades now. She is known for improving the economic growth of Bangladesh and providing shelter for the Rohingya refugees. In the process of the recent elections however, she has been accused of being authoritarian and crushing her opposition. These claims turned violent and the elections took place under some morbid conditions.

She has been accused of stuffing ballot boxes, forcing women to vote for the boat and using many illegal means to fix the result amongst others. Sheikh Hasina needed 151 seats to control the parliament, although this wouldn’t have been very difficult, according to critics who think that her victory would be tarnished by accusations that she ‘hamstrung her opponents’. The opposition seems very volatile and claimed that 15000 of its activists were detained during the campaign, preventing them from mobilising any support. Human rights and United Nations watched as a climate of fear was created that barred them from even casting ballots on the voting day. United Nations has seriously considered the credibility of the elections that took place and called in greater efforts to make the voting as fair and free as possible.

The opposition leader Kamal Hossain has requested that the results be considered void. They condemned that the elections were very farcical owing to the vote-rigging and demanded a new vote. The Election Commission has reported that it heard vote-rigging allegations all over the country and vowed to investigate. The death toll has risen to 17 people in clashes between the ruling party and opposition. Even though there were 600,000 police and military personnel deployed in the country, the voter turnout was thin in some regions causing the alleged vote rigging to be easier. One man even claimed to the reporters that his family members found that their votes had already been cast before they reached the ballot. Most of the public faced similar issues but were too scared to speak out. The ruling party was visible in every polling booth, overseeing the voting, non-supporters of the Prime Minister did not dare to express their opinions publicly.

There was a nationwide mobile internet shutdown during the voting raising some eyebrows. Authorities ordered the mobile operators to shutdown all 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday hoping to prevent the ‘spread of rumours’ that could potentially cause unrest in the country. It seems unlikely that any unrest could be caused by the spread of rumours as opposed to the unrest that was already caused by the violence between the two parties.

Ms Hasina is one of the strongest women politicians this world has witnessed in the past years. She single-handedly improved the economy of a country and vows to do the same in the future. She was ranked 26th on the Forbes’ list of The World’s Most Powerful Women in the year 2018. A member of the Council of Women World Leaders, she has an influential network with the current leaders globally. Although she has personally rejected the accusations of her authoritarian regime, her party has faced accusations from the opposition since the beginning of the year of 2017. Many of the opposition members were arrested and tried as the government tried to stifle the dissent. This was considered as authoritarian.

Earlier this year, arch rival of the Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in a graft case in what can only seem like a politically motivated judgement. Other issues that caused critics to scrutinise her time in power is the Jamaat-e-Islami party’s ban from participating in the 2014 elections. The Bangladeshi constitution being secular, the Election Commission and the public worried that the elections may not be free and fair. 4 years later, the situation has worsened if possible and the people are continuing to wonder if the choice given to them is real.

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