Sheikh Hasina secures fifth term as Bangladesh PM with resounding victory despite opposition boycott

| Updated: 08 January, 2024 3:13 pm IST
Overwhelming election triumph for Bangladesh's PM Sheikh Hasina amid Opposition claims of unfairness. (Image credit: X)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured a decisive victory in Bangladesh’s parliamentary election, despite a campaign marked by violence and a boycott from the primary opposition party. This win grants her and the Awami League a fourth consecutive term.

Although the Election Commission has been tardy in revealing the outcomes of Sunday’s election, Bangladeshi television networks, equipped with extensive journalist networks throughout the country, disclosed on Saturday that the Awami League secured 216 seats out of 299.

Independent candidates clinched 52 seats, and the Jatiya Party, the third-largest in the nation, obtained 11 seats. The election encompassed 299 out of 300 parliamentary seats, with one seat experiencing a lawful postponement following the demise of an independent candidate.

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Before the vote, a minimum of 18 arson attacks occurred, but the actual election day transpired in a comparatively peaceful manner. As per a report by TIME, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal revealed a voter turnout of approximately 40 per cent once the polls concluded.

The leading opposition party in Bangladesh, led by former Prime Minister Khaled Zia, rejected the election results, contending that Bangladeshi voters have disapproved of the government’s biased electoral process.

Security incidents, such as the arson attack resulting in four deaths on a passenger train last Friday, heightened tensions leading up to the election, which was boycotted by Zia’s party and its affiliated factions. They allege that Hasina has transformed Bangladesh into a single-party state, stifling dissent and civil society.

The legitimacy of the election has been cast into doubt due to allegations of a widespread crackdown on the BNP. The party claims that approximately 20,000 of its members were unjustly imprisoned on fabricated charges leading up to the vote.

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The government contested these numbers, refuting that arrests were politically motivated, and asserted that the actual count of those arrested ranged from 2,000 to 3,000. The country’s law minister, in an interview with BBC, suggested that around 10,000 individuals were probably arrested.

Abdul Moyeen Khan, a former minister and member of the BNP, revealed that a wave of arrests compelled him and numerous party members to go into hiding for several weeks until the nomination process for candidates was suspended. He stated, “It was the only way we could ensure our safety and continue voicing our concerns against the government.”

Khan further emphasised, “We are not abstaining from an election — what we are rejecting is a fraudulent and biased election conducted by this government.”

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However, following her vote, Hasina brushed aside worries about the credibility of the election, stating to reporters that she was answerable to the people, and that what mattered most to her was whether they acknowledged the election results or not.

“I’m trying my best to ensure that democracy should continue in this country,” she added. “Without democracy, you cannot make any development.”

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