News / Asia

Opposition Boycott Casts Doubt About Credibility of Bangladesh Elections

Police try to stop activists of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League from attacking lawyers loyal to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami during a protest inside the premises of Supreme Court in Dhaka, Dec. 29, 2013.
Police try to stop activists of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League from attacking lawyers loyal to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami during a protest inside the premises of Supreme Court in Dhaka, Dec. 29, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Bangladesh heads to the polls on Sunday but with opposition parties boycotting the election, there are questions about its credibility.

Campaigns, rallies and banners - the usual signs of an election - are missing from the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. There is little need for all this.

With opposition parties boycotting the poll, the ruling Awami League party candidates have already won 154 of the 300 parliamentary seats being contested, making Sunday’s vote almost meaningless.

Professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, Imtiaz Ahmed, says even some former allies of the ruling party have joined the boycott.

“The very fact that more than 50 per cent of the seats where no election was held and not a single vote was cast, and they got elected, that has become a serious problem at this point. They got elected because there was only one candidate,” said Ahmed.

The atmosphere in the country is volatile. Violence has spiraled since elections were announced in late November. Scores have been killed in street protests.

Army troops have deployed to prevent more violence. Dhaka has been virtually blockaded from the rest of the country as authorities have suspended bus, train and ferry links into the city to foil street protests by opposition supporters.
Opposition parties have refused to participate in the election because the government abandoned the past practice of holding them under an interim administration. It scrapped the system two years ago. Political analysts say it could be because losses in local elections indicated waning support for the ruling party.

The United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth have declined to send observers for Sunday’s vote. They say conditions must be created for a transparent and inclusive poll and have urged the government to resolve the political impasse.

Dhaka University professor Amena Mohsin hopes Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinia will ultimately agree to stand aside for a caretaker administration which could supervise new elections. 

“The International community has already said these elections are not credible. Nobody is taking it seriously. Everybody is thinking this is just a stopgap. I think the international pressure and escalation of violence, that will force her [Prime minister Sheikh Hasina] to take these measures,” said Amena Mohsin.

The political standoff over the polls comes amid heightened tensions in the country over a war crimes tribunal that has sentenced several Islamic leaders to death for their role in the 1971 war of independence.

Political polarization is not new to Bangladesh. The country’s two main parties are headed by women - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia - whose arch rivalry has cast a shadow on the country’s politics for decades. But political analysts say the present crisis is among the most serious the country has faced.

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Comment Sorting
by: Enayet Mowla from: US
January 02, 2014 5:04 PM
A question has been raised about the credibility of the election as one of the main opposition parties has disagreed to participate in it. I seem to remember that on quite a few occasions in the past when one or the other important parties did not take part in elections when nobody thought about their lost credibility. Mr. Mukta Chinta is claiming from Dallas hiding his own name, that the children of corrupt politicians are taking shelter in US. I invite him to make a few inquiries in the Nasirabad area of Chittagong to find out who I was and what I used to do.

by: Mukto Chinta from: Dallas, Texas
January 02, 2014 2:10 PM
Dictator Hasina is slowly eliminating democratic government in Bangladesh. Hasina's Awami League had been worst government in the history of Bangladesh. They robbed billions of dollar worth of Bangladeshi currency through scam from Bangladeshi share market. Their political employees killed 100's of thousands of Bangladeshi people for no reason. Now they are robbing basic right of Bangladeshi people --- right to vote. These politicians don't care about Bangladesh as they already sent their children to the west. Hasina's son Joy is based in Washington DC, USA and Hasina's daughter is based in Ontario, Canada. My question is how long these western countries will harbor corrupt politicians children from poor countries like Bangladesh and keep giving them western citizenship? Mean while the corrupt politician parents are keep robbing these 3rd world countries like Bangladesh.

by: Kamrul Hassan from: Dhaka
January 02, 2014 9:25 AM
Hasina regime has committed all worst forms of crimes against humanity during last five year. They have detained opposition members,harassed,tortured and sometimes killed them in custody. Administration has been politicized from top to bottom. Hasina has set loyal in top posts of administration and military. If you just investigate you will find that senior officials are almost from Gopalganj, which is the home district of Sheikh Hasina.
List of Hasina's criminal activities could be elongated for an encyclopedia of autocracy, but the key point is that Hasina has waning public support and she is more than sure a fair and free election will drowse him from her boat. That's why she is so scared to arrange an election under a party neutral government.

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