Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a fourth straight term after an election marked by opposition boycotts, violence, and historically low voter turnout. Hasina’s Awami League party and its allies won 288 out of 300 seats, allowing her to remain the country’s leader for another 5 years.
Election Marred by Controversies
The election was mired in controversy even before polls opened. The main opposition alliance, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the vote claiming it would be rigged. Sporadic violence and attacks on candidates occurred in the months leading up to the election. At least 21 people have died in election-related violence since November 2023.
On election day itself, voting was largely peaceful but turnout plummeted to a new low of only 25%. The opposition rejected the turnout figure, claiming it was even lower. They argued the low participation undermines the legitimacy of Hasina’s victory.
|Turnout in Recent Bangladesh Elections
With the opposition boycott, many seats had no contest at all. The lopsided result allows Hasina to form a government without needing coalition partners. But experts warn one-party dominance threatens Bangladesh’s democratic institutions.
“This election deepens the growing political divide in Bangladesh. Though Hasina commands strong domestic support, the process reveals weaknesses in the country’s democratic practices,” said [Crisis Group’s Expert Name].
International Reactions Cautious
Key international observers including the United States praised the peaceful conduct of voting but noted the lack of competition and low engagement were concerning.
India, Bangladesh’s neighbor and close ally, congratulated Hasina on her victory. With bilateral ties strong, India is expected to continue robust cooperation with Dhaka regardless of any legitimacy issues about the election.
Meanwhile China, which has strengthened economic ties with Bangladesh recently, also welcomed Hasina’s win. Both major powers share an interest in Bangladesh’s continued stability.
Next Moves Uncertain
The lopsided result cements Hasina’s grip on power domestically. But experts say addressing the opposition’s grievances over the electoral process will be key to reducing tensions.
“Violent politics have marked Bangladesh’s elections for decades. To break this cycle, the Awami League government should seek to open dialogue with the opposition alliance,” said [Analyst Name], Bangladesh expert at [Institution Name].
With her electoral supremacy now clear, observers will watch to see if Hasina reaches out with reconciliation attempts or continues to squeeze her opponents. Either way, the troubled election may have sown the seeds for future unrest.
“This election and its fallout should concern Bangladesh’s friends,” warns a [Media Outlet] editorial. “The country has made impressive economic and social progress in recent years. But an angry and alienated oppositionmeans the threat of serious unrest will likely grow.”
Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has led the country since 2009. Her tenure has seen impressive economic growth, with Bangladesh’s GDP expanding 188% during her time in office.
She has also overseen the process of prosecuting those responsible for atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
But Hasina’s rule has been repeatedly tainted with accusations of growing authoritarianism and human rights abuses. Her main rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who leads the BNP, was convicted of corruption charges in 2018. Zia says the charges were politically motivated.
Human Rights Watch and other activist groups say the December 2024 election is part of a pattern of Bangladesh’s ruling party abusing state power to cripple opponents. With her resounding victory, pressure will likely grow on Hasina to address these criticisms amid questions over the legitimacy of her rule.
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