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Bangladesh Political Trends and Way Ahead in 2023

The collapse of economic and political order in Sri Lanka has given rise to debate over stability in other South Asian countries such as Bangladesh. While Bangladesh economy is resilient enough, the political trends in the coming year requires more profound analysis.

Political parties in Bangladesh are preparing for the 12th Parliamentary elections due in December 2023 with Awami League Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina commencing a reach out in April 22 to several geographic and political constituencies. Awami League has already conducted surveys in 100 constituencies of the 300 directly elected seats in the Jatiya Sansad where the ruling party’s candidates have higher chances of winning the polls.

Intense animosity between the ruling Awami League and main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been the bane of stable polity in Bangladesh. BNP marginalised due to partial decapacitation of top leaders Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and her son and Vice Chairman Tarique Rehman who is in exile in the UK.

The BNP participated in the 10th and 11th Jatiya Sansad elections held in 2014 and 2018 but could win a handful of seats in the latter whereas the Awami League could project the polls as participatory.

The BNP believes that as the 2023 polls are likely to be structured to favour the Awami League, which has now been in power for the past 13 years, continuity participation will be a farce. On the other hand, if the BNP does not participate, it may face an existential crisis.

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said there was no question of participating in the election unless the current AL government resigned. Significantly the BNP has boycotted local government polls such as the Union Parishad held in 2021.

BNP also did not participate in the process of forming the Election Commission (EC) under a new law passed by the Jatiya Sansad which is dominated by the Awami League.

BNP emphasised the importance of a neutral polls-time government, but this is unlikely for the forthcoming polls in 2021.

Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina has tasked her party leader to make all-out efforts to bring the BNP to the next parliamentary elections. There is hope of BNP participating as the party has decided to break the alliance with the Jamaat e Islam that regularly courts controversy.

The newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal asserted that EC will hold elections with the cooperation of all political parties. Another critical issue is expected to be Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Several analysts have warned that Election Commission should refrain from using electronic voting machines in polls unless there is consensus.

In terms of the mood of the public, minorities have expressed resentment as the Awami League is alleged to have failed to implement electoral manifesto on protecting them. Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad also resented reports of attacks on religious places of minorities.

Meanwhile rising prices are expected to be a hot button issue as protests led to clashes across country these included those engineered by BNP and left front clashing with Awami League activists.

Trends for the elections denote that the Awami League continues to hold an advantage due to marginalisation of the opposition and strongarm tactics that are typical of politics and polls in Bangladesh.

Violence is anticipated in the campaigning period while the Awami League in case it succeeds in winning the polls may have to stand up to international scrutiny, particularly the Biden administration in the United States, which has a strong stance on democratic values and human rights. Thus Bangladesh was a noticeable absentee at the first democracy summit organised by U.S. President Joe Biden on December 9 and 10 last year.


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