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January 06, 2014

Bangladesh Election Results Leave Opposition Cold

by Anjana Pasricha

In Bangladesh, the ruling Awami League party was declared the winner of a violence-plagued election in which victory was a foregone conclusion due to an opposition boycott. However, fear of more political violence stalks the country as opposition parties reject the election.    
    
This was one election in which the counting of votes did not matter because more than half the seats were uncontested. Nevertheless, preliminary results confirmed Monday that ruling Awami League candidates won more than three quarters (232 according to preliminary counts) of the 300 elected seats, giving it a sweeping majority in parliament. Its allies will control most of the other seats.    

Analysts say the election chaos was not un expected.

“I think the election came out exactly as we expected it to,” Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told VOA’s Bangla service. “There was absolutely no doubt about who is going to be the victor. And I think it is very hard to make any argument that it is a fair election.”

Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, told VOA’s Bangla service that the future is uncertain.

“We have seen a violent picture,” he said. “The only hope is that as the [prime minister] and some other ministers have said earlier that after the tenth parliament elections, there may be some dialogue.”

The opposition, which did not participate in the elections, called on the government to nullify the vote. It says low turnout confirmed the election was a farce.

But Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the turnout did not matter -- what was important is that people defied violence.
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With the situation volatile, troops continue to patrol streets in Dhaka. Traffic was thin a day after the voting.

The opposition has called for a nationwide shutdown until Wednesday - the latest in a series of strikes and blockades that have brought the country to a virtual standstill.

Dhaka University professor Amena Mohsin said the Awami League will need to find a way to resolve the political deadlock and put a stop to the violence. 

“What other option do we have? There is tremendous pressure from the civil society to open up negotiations, from the business community," Mohsin noted. "It is like low intensity conflict is going on in the country for the last so many months.  Prior to the election it was regarded as pre election violence, but you can’t have post election violence for five years.”

Political observers and most media have denounced the polls as futile. The Daily Star newspaper called it the bloodiest election in the country’s history and termed the Awami League victory “hollow.” Scores had been killed in the run-up to the vote, several more died on polling day.

The country’s flourishing garment industry is among those hit by the political instability.

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“We are totally directionless, confused, feeling dejected because nothing is moving on the road," complained Dhaka-based businessman Mamun Rashid. "We cannot take delivery of the goods from Chittagong port or Mongla port nor can we sell our produce, products to various markets, locally and internationally. Many garment manufacturers, they are being forced to airlift their goods.”

Political analysts say the biggest stumbling block in trying to resolve the country’s political stalemate is the bitter hostility and personal animosity between the two women who lead the country’s main parties: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party.

VOA Bangla Service contributed to this article.