Bangladesh | Counting underway for legislative elections without opposition

(Dhaka) Counting began Sunday afternoon in Bangladesh for legislative elections boycotted by the main opposition party, the BNP, and guaranteed to offer a fifth term to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

If Mme Hasina, in power since 2009, is credited with fostering meteoric growth in the world’s eighth most populous country, once plagued by extreme poverty, her government is accused of serious human rights abuses and ruthless repression of the opposition.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which Mme Hasina called a “terrorist organization” in front of the press after voting in the capital Dhaka, denouncing “a sham election”. The vote is also boycotted by other parties, also decimated in recent months by a massive wave of arrests.

Polls closed at 4 p.m. (5 a.m. Eastern), the election commission announced the start of counting, and results are expected Monday morning.

Sheikh Hasina, 76, called on voters to go to the polls, promising “free and fair” elections.


Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Her party, the Awami League, has virtually no opponents in the constituencies she is contesting. But it failed to present candidates in a few others, apparently to avoid the unicameral Parliament being seen as the instrument of a single party.

” Shame ”

The head of the national electoral commission, Habibul Awal, estimated participation at around 40%, according to initial figures.

Many Bangladeshis interviewed by AFP said they did not vote because the result was a foregone conclusion.

“Why would I go to vote when we have one party participating and the other not? “, declared Mohammad Saidur, a 31-year-old rickshaw driver.

“We all know who will win,” added Farhana Manik, a 27-year-old student.

The leader of the BNP, Tarique Rahman, denounced possible ballot stuffing.

“What took place is not an election, but rather a shame for the democratic aspirations of Bangladesh,” he said on social networks, adding that he had seen “disturbing photos and videos” supporting his accusations.

Numerous testimonies reported various incentives, even blackmail, from the authorities to encourage participation.

Some voters say they were threatened with confiscation of their government benefit cards, necessary to obtain social benefits, if they refused to vote for the Awami League.

“They told me they would confiscate it if I didn’t vote,” said Lal Mia, 64, who votes in the central Faridpur district. “They said that since the government feeds us, we must vote for it.”


The BNP and other parties protested unsuccessfully for months in late 2023 to demand Ms resignationme Hasina and a neutral interim government to oversee the elections.

Some 25,000 opposition officials, including all local BNP leaders, were arrested after these demonstrations, during which several people were killed in clashes with the police, according to the party. The government, for its part, reported 11,000 arrests.

In the east of the country, in Chittagong, police fired on Sunday, without causing injuries, to disperse around sixty opposition activists who had set up a roadblock to protest against the vote, according to local police.

Nearly 700,000 police and reservists were deployed to maintain order during the vote, and nearly 100,000 soldiers, according to the electoral commission.

Bangladesh’s security forces have long been accused of excessive use of force, something the government denies.

The political scene in the country of 170 million people has long been dominated by the rivalry between Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the country’s founder, and Khaleda Zia, a two-time prime minister and wife of a former military leader.

Since his return to power in 2009, Hasina strengthened her control after two elections marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud.

Convicted of corruption in 2018, Khaleda Zia, 78, is detained in a hospital in the capital Dhaka due to her poor state of health.

His son Tarique Rahman leads the BNP in his place from London, where he has lived in exile since 2008, after several convictions in his country.

Her economic successes have long supported Sheikh Hasina’s popularity. But difficulties have increased recently, with rising prices and widespread power outages.

The refusal of wage increases demanded by textile workers, a sector which generates 85% of the country’s $55 billion in annual exports, triggered social unrest at the end of 2023, with factories burned and hundreds of others closed.


Leave a Comment