The polls opened in Bangladesh on Sunday for parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina all however guaranteeing a fourth consecutive time period in workplace, in a vote marred by widespread crackdowns on the opposition.
Safety remained tight and the temper among the many nation’s 170 million folks was tense because the Bangladesh Nationalist Social gathering, the primary opposition get together, which has boycotted the election as unfair, pushed for a nationwide strike. With the get together in disarray and numerous leaders and members in jail, it’s unclear how profitable efforts to prepare the strike have been. 4 folks have been killed in a hearth on a practice within the capital Dhaka late Thursday, which police are investigating as arson. At the least 16 polling stations have been set on fireplace on the eve of the election, the nation’s fireplace brigade stated.
Ms Hasina, 76, who solid her vote in Dhaka quickly after polls opened at 8am native time, urged folks to return out in giant numbers.
Throughout her marketing campaign, she has referred to as for political stability and continuity, typically pointing to the nation’s violent historical past of coups and counter-coups, together with the coup that killed her father, Bangladesh’s founder, within the Seventies. She has highlighted her efforts to advertise financial growth and her secular get together’s opposition to the rise of Islamist militants as explanation why voters ought to and can give her one other time period.
“We fought so much for this proper to vote: jail, oppression, grenades, bombs,” Ms. Hasina advised reporters after casting her vote. “These elections will probably be free and truthful.”
However with the outcomes predicted and the election largely a one-sided affair, there gave the impression to be little pleasure concerning the temper on the streets. Morning visits to polling stations in Dhaka confirmed that voting was getting off to a gradual begin. Members of the ruling get together, the Awami League, milled round exterior voting facilities, however voters have been a trickle.
“I did not vote in my hometown as a result of what distinction would my vote make?” stated Mominul Islam Islam, a rickshaw puller in Dhaka.
With the primary opposition boycotting, the competitors – nonetheless tense and marked by violence in lots of constituencies – is essentially between members of Ms Hasina’s personal get together.
After profitable aggressive elections beneath a impartial interim authorities in 2009, Ms. Hasina got down to flip Bangladesh right into a one-party state, analysts and critics say. She modified the structure to make the apply of holding elections beneath impartial rule unlawful, and gained two extra phrases — in 2014 and 2018 — in votes marked by boycotts and opposition irregularities.
Ms. Hasina initially tried to crush the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist get together. She successfully banned her political work and prosecuted a few of her senior leaders for violence and treason throughout Bangladesh’s 1971 warfare of independence. Extra not too long ago, her efforts have targeted on the BNP, the primary opposition get together, which has now turn into so hollowed out that it stays has little mobilization capability. The nation’s leaders, who are usually not but in jail, are slowed down in countless court docket appointments.
For a lot of the previous 15 years, as Ms. Hasina got here to energy for a second time after a five-year time period that resulted in 2001, an financial success story distracted from her autocratic flip.
Because of investments within the garment business, Bangladesh skilled such spectacular development that its common revenue stage at one level surpassed that of India. The nation additionally noticed main enhancements in schooling, healthcare, ladies’s labor drive participation and local weather catastrophe preparedness.
However as Ms Hasina ready for a fourth consecutive time period in workplace, the luster of the financial success story pale, with the inhabitants scuffling with rising costs.
The back-to-back blows of the pandemic and the warfare in Ukraine, which have pushed up gasoline and meals costs, have uncovered Bangladesh’s over-reliance on one business. The nation’s international reserves have shrunk, forcing it to use for emergency loans from the Worldwide Financial Fund.
Opposition leaders tried to stoke public anger over the economic system by holding their first main rallies in years, prompting Ms Hasina to accentuate the crackdown. The BNP says greater than 20,000 of its members have been arrested because the final main rally in October, throughout which police batons and tear gasoline have been used.