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Bangladesh Review of Political Trends

A multi party democracy, Bangladesh at present is under the strong control of the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina. The two main opposition parties – the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jatiya Party (JP) have been effectively marginalized through a series of political moves some of which have been coercive. Lack of an effective opposition has meant that the government has got away with poor management of COVID 19 with repeated waves leading to increase in the number of cases as well as fatalities.

Religious fundamentalist groups as the Hefazat e Islam have a major role in the politics of Bangladesh as the group wields considerable influence through the large network of Madrassahs. Presently the Awami League government has cracked down on the Hefazat after the group indulged in violence during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi to the country in March this year (2021). Several Hefazat and other activists were shot dead in violence that was seen in Brahmanbaria, Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Ghazipur and Khulna. However, appeasement has also been one of the approaches to which governments in Bangladesh are suspect. Hifazat-e Islam chief Junaid Babunagari met home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in Dhaka in July amid a strict coronavirus lockdown as dozens of leaders of the organisation remain in jail

The Awami League has increasingly undertaken what many claim is an authoritarian approach to governance through legislation curbing media freedoms, control of the Election Commission as well as the judiciary, thus democratic credentials have led the Economic Intelligence Unit to categorise Bangladesh as a hybrid regime implying considerable impediments to balanced and independent functioning of pillars of polity, judiciary, media and so on. The Digital Security Act (DSA) is routinely employed to stifle dissent including mainstream journalists.

The level of political violence is high. In municipality elections held in 2020-21 violent clashes have been reported at large number of locations. In addition inter and intra party clashes are also seen frequently. Thus the role of the police and the security forces including the Army in politics has assumed some significance with the underlying violence. The country has seen a number of military coup in the past with conspiracy theories floating even today from time to time.

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