Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Bangladesh PM Scores a Hat-Trick, Runs Out All Opposition

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina scored a Hat-Trick by registering a third consecutive term comes amid election violence, protests, 17 people dead and booth rigging claims. The Awami League party won 288 of the 300 seats and a definite majority.

However, Jatiyo Oikyo Front, the opposition coalition has rejected the win and called for another vote. The opposition alliance leader Kamal Hossain called Sunday’s vote ‘farcical’ and rejected the Awami League party’s win. Hossain at a press conference said the election should be declared a void. Moreover, the opposition claims that Hasina’s leadership has become increasingly authoritarian.

Bangladesh’s election was marred by the jailing of thousands of Hasina’s opponents. According to the French Press Agency, thirteen people were killed in clashes between opposing party supporters. “Three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling stations. An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists.” Furthermore, mobile internet was blocked and it was a curfew-like-situation with the streets of the capital Dhaka largely deserted.

The 71-year-old’s main rival is former prime minister Khaleda Zia, the leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The Bangladesh court had ruled her ineligible to run for office as she is imprisoned for corruption. According to the Guardian, “Hasina has cemented her dominance in the past decade, using the state tools at her disposal to weaken the BNP and its organs, clamp down on judicial and media dissent and mostly check the country’s small but potent Islamist movement.” Experts say her clampdown on dissent has been more systematic and effective at hobbling opponents.

The South Asian region, especially China and India had been keenly observing former East Pakistan’s political scene. Bangladesh has been riding high on economic growth and domestic achievements.

Now, Dhaka has to carefully weigh out its relationship with neighbors China and India. While India helped it gain independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh shares a complex relation with New Delhi in terms of illegal immigration and other areas. With China, Dhaka has a robust relation. According to Chinese media, China is Bangladesh’s major trading partner and top military supplier. Beijing eyes Bangladesh as an ‘attractive strategic determinant’. Dhaka is included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

New Delhi is treading the Bangladesh carefully as it doesn’t want to compromise its relationship in anyway. India regards Bangladesh as a nation that symbolizes equitable socio-economic growth, and a moderate Islamic DNA that protects its minorities and is also gender sensitive.

And 2019 is the year to look out for the trio China-Bangladesh-India framework. Probably, Pakistan will be unnerved.

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