Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wins Unsurprising Victory

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is heading for a fifth term – the fourth in a row – after winning the general elections on Sunday (January 7th), boycotted by the main opposition party which denounced a "sham election".

In power since 2009, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is heading for a fourth consecutive term. Dhaka, January 7, 2024. AP - Mahmud Hossain Opu

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The Awami League "won more than 50 percent of the seats" in the unicameral parliament, a spokesman for the electoral commission told Agence France-Presse, hours after voting closed. Earlier, Somoy TV, the largest private television channel in the country of 170 million people, announced that outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was assured of victory, as her party and its allies had won at least 60% of the seats in parliament, after announcing the results of 225 of the 300 seats.

After casting her ballot in Dhaka, Sheikh Hasina, 76, called on voters to go to the polls, promising "free and fair" elections. She also denounced the boycott of the election by the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which she described as a "terrorist organisation".

Read alsoVisionary icon or authoritarian dynast? Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's elusive ruler

The BNP, for its part, denounced "a sham election". The vote was also boycotted by other parties, decimated like him in recent months by mass arrests. The Awami League had virtually no opponents in the constituencies it was running. But it had omitted to field candidates in a few others, apparently to avoid the unicameral parliament being seen as an instrument of a single party.

The head of the national electoral commission estimated turnout at around 40%. Many Bangladeshis interviewed by AFP said they did not vote because the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The exiled leader of the BNP, Tarique Rahman, denounced possible ballot stuffing. There were many testimonies of various incitements and even blackmail by the authorities to encourage participation. Some voters say they were threatened with confiscation of their government benefit cards, which are needed to obtain social benefits, if they refused to vote for the Awami League.

A tense election day

These parliamentary elections were held in a tense atmosphere. Nearly 700,000 police and reservists, and nearly 100,000 soldiers, were deployed to maintain order during the vote, according to the electoral commission. In the eastern Chittagong region, police fired but were not injured to disperse about <> opposition activists who had set up a roadblock to protest the vote, according to local police.

The BNP and other parties unsuccessfully protested for months in late 2023 to demand the resignation of Seikh Hasina and a neutral caretaker government to oversee the elections. Some 25,000 opposition cadres, including all local BNP leaders, were arrested after the protests, in which several people were killed in clashes with police, according to the party. The government reported 11,000 arrests.

Since returning to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina has tightened his grip after two elections marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. While his government has been accused of serious human rights abuses and a ruthless crackdown on the opposition, its economic successes have long sustained its popularity. But the difficulties have multiplied recently, with rising prices and widespread power outages. His fifth term, the fourth in a row, promises to be tricky.


With AFP)

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