Bangladesh’s ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won elections with a landslide victory and is set for a third consecutive term. This is an unprecedented feat in the country’s political history as no other leader in Bangladesh has been able to win a third term. The ruling coalition has bagged more than 80 per cent of votes, making it the strongest governments in South Asia.
The ruling coalition went into the polls on the plank of Hasina’s track record of “development”, hoping people will favour the boat (the Awami League’s election symbol) over the Opposition’s paddy sheaf. Awami League had constantly sought votes in favour of the “liberation war spirit”, and against the forces of “communalism and fundamentalism”.
The Opposition Jatiya Oikya Front (National United Front) was, on the other hand, hopeful that anti-incumbency would catch up with Hasina, and pave the way for the release of Zia from prison. BNP’s decision to give tickets to former Jamaat-e-Islami leaders also backfired, as people had memories of the BNP-Jamaat rule in 2001-2006 when attacks against minorities had reached a new high.
India is comfortable with Hasina’s win since it had made considerable gains in the relationship over the last decade of her term. India’s relationship with the BNP-Jamaat alliance government during 2001-06 was not positive, owing to attacks on Hindus and anti-India activities in the country.
Overall, the election was also marred by reports of voter intimidation, rigging and “ballot stuffing” — a term used in Bangladesh to denote that ballot boxes have been stuffed with votes even before the voting process begun. The BNP polling agents were also not seen at the voting centres. The opposition was quick to reject the outcome and called it “farcical” and called for elections under a neutral caretaker government. At least 18 people were killed in election-related violence across the country Sunday, while reports suggested 200 were injured.
According to the final results, Hasina herself won with an astounding vote count — 1,000 times more than all her rivals put together. She got 2,29,539 votes, while BNP candidate SM Jilani secured only 123 votes. Islami Andolan Bangladesh candidate Md Maruf Sheikh won 71 votes, and others only 14 votes.
Jatiyo Oikya Front chief Kamal Hossain called for a fresh vote “as soon as possible”. He called it a “vote dakaati” — vote rigging at a massive scale. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir described the election as a “mockery”, in which, he alleged, leaders of the ruling party and the police had worked together. “This is the death of democracy,” he said.