Bangladesh Parliament Polls Gives Hasina’s Awami League Record Fourth Term In Office


The Bangladesh Parliament will now look like an extended national Council of the ruling Awami League with 61 Independents from the party emerging as the main ‘Opposition bloc’ to the League’s 223 elected MPs in a 300-member House.

“Effectively this election has turned out to be a firm step towards an one-party state,” said Bangladesh analyst Debashis Nandi.

In a first-time move to give the polls a participatory flavour after principal Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the polls and ally Jamaat-e-Islami failed to regain Election Commission registration, the Awami League allowed dissidents denied official nomination  to contest as ‘Independents’ without inviting disciplinary action as before.

“Now that 61 of them have won and started jockeying for cabinet positions, the parliament will clearly have the one-party look of Chinese National People’s Congress rather than an Indian parliament or the UK House of Commons or the US Senate,” said Nandi, who teaches politics in an Indian University. 

But PM Sheikh Hasina’s advisor Salman F Rahman sought to justify the absence of Opposition by referring to the Indian situation.

“The Indian parliament does not have an Opposition leader because the Congress failed to get the mandatory ten percent seats needed to get that . Should we call India an one-party state,” Rahman was quoted by top Bangladesh portsl as saying. 

Rahman won a whopping victory against Jatiya Party’s Salma Islam in Dhaka’s Dohar constituency in a poll where under-age children were caught on camera voting by turns.

“When you need such fraudulent practices even in a largely Opposition-less election, it says a lot about the legitimacy of this poll exercise,” said the country’s top rights activist and economist Badiul Alam Majumder who runs the ‘Citizens for Good Governance’.

Majumder also pointed to ‘desperate efforts’ by the Bangladesh Election Commission to up the voter turnout statistics in ‘a rather strange way’.

“At 3pm on Sunday, the Election Commission said only 27 percent had voted. Then after one hour, it put the figure at 40 percent. This points to fudging turnout statistics,” said Majumder in a poll discussion on BBC Bengali service. 

Even at 40 percent, the turnout was half the one during the last  parliament poll five years ago. 

A boycott call by principal opposition BNP and much violence to back the call may explain the low turnout.” But voter apathy really explains this low turnout because everyone knew the results beforehand ,” said leading editor Nurul Kabir in an interview to Deutsche Welle Bengali service. 

The Jatiya Party created by late military dictator H.M Ershad is set to be the official opposition in parliament again, commanding just 11 seats, because its candidates have lost in half of the 26 constituencies left by the Awami League in a seat-sharing deal.

“We have become the sacrificial lamb in this election because it was marred by massive poll fraud and many of our deserving candidates were denied sure victories by the Awami League,” said Jatiya Party chief G M Quader, brother of the late Ershad.

The ‘Independent’ candidates of the Awami League have won nearly six times as many seats as the Jatiya Party at 61. The Awami League has secured an absolute majority with 223 out of 299 constituencies.

“The unexpected victories of these independent candidates have significantly altered the political landscape, hinting at a new era of internal competition within the ruling party itself,” said an election analysis of the

“As Bangladesh steps into this new term under the Awami League’s governance, the reshaping of the opposition poses critical questions about the future of the country’s parliamentary dynamics and political balance,” it said.

The Awami League’s allies the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and the Workers Party won one each. The Kalyan Party, which had once been in the BNP-led coalition, also secured a win in one seat.

The BNP has been out of parliament despite being a major force in the country’s politics, just like the 10th parliament after the 2014 polls boycotted by the party.

Amid low turnout, senior BNP leader Abdul Moyeen Khan claimed their boycott was successful.

Sensing a resounding defeat to the Awami League and its independent candidates, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader expressed worries that his party may have been persuaded to contest the election only to be used as a pawn in establishing “single-party rule” in Bangladesh.

Hasina, after casting her ballot in the morning, said she had no doubt that the Awami League would win.

She thanked the people for “allowing the government to hold a fair election.” 

The Awami League candidates who lost to independents from the party include three state ministers – Mahbub Alim Enamur Rahman and Swapan Bhattacharya.

The list of such candidates also includes heavyweights like Awami League Publicity Secretary Abdus Sobhan Mia Golap, three times MP Dhirendra Debnath Shambhu, Presidium Member Kazi Zafarullah, Cultural Affairs Secretary Ashim Kumar Ukil, Liberation War Affairs Secretary Mrinal Kanti Das, and celebrated singer Momtaz Begum.

Former information minister Hasanul Haque Inu, the president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and a key partner of the Awami League in the 14-Party Alliance, lost to the ruling party’s independent candidate.

So did Anwar Hossain Manju of the Jatiya Party-JP and Fazle Hossain Badsha of the Workers Party.

“There should have been a strong opposition. Not just in name only. We saw some subordinate and domesticated oppositions in our country. Such oppositions are ineffective and they play no role in flourishing democracy,” columnist Bibhu Ranjan Sarker was quoted by as saying.

“Some of the independents may not join the Awami League, but most of them will. So, it will actually be a one-party parliament.”

India, China and Russia have endorsed this poll with Beijing asserting ‘elections are an internal affair of Bangladesh’ but much attention is now focussed on how Western democracies react.

For the world’s most populous democracy India, having to endorse a one-sided election and the inevitable one-party governance is particularly embarrassing.

“India is going the US way — democracy at home and support for dictatorships abroad for strategic considerations,” said former intelligence official Benu Ghosh. 

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC and Reuters correspondent and author of books on South Asian conflicts.

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