The Bangladesh Awami League does not have to rely on ‘ruthlessness’ to overcome electoral challenges, given the economic success and favourable opinion polls, says The Economist. In an article published on 8 November, the British specialised magazine welt on trends of Bangladesh elections and pointed out that when the electoral game has appeared to be fair, voter turnout has been strong.
“When it has looked tilted, voters have stayed at home,” it wrote, adding that on each occasion of the elections in Bangladesh, “the political landscape has looked radically different.”
The Economist narrated the history of Bangladesh elections on a single sentence: “There have been times of single-party dominance, of army rule, of fiery protest and boycott, and also times when, after millions of voters have peacefully cast their ballots, parties have politely alternated in power.”
The AL came to power through a landslide victory in 2008 parliamentary polls and has clung on to power after a one-sided ballot boycotted by all major opposition parties in 2014.
According to the article, the AL, which has “grown fat and bossy” after so long in power, seems to be “determined to secure a third consecutive five-year term by hook or by crook”.
About the latest political developments after formation of the Jatiya Oikya Front, the Economist said all of a sudden, the mood has changed. “The countrys 165m people might just get a competitive - although certainly not fair - election.”
The opposition coalition raised seven major demands including polls under non-party government, and release of former prime minister and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The article mentioned that the AL says it will not bend the constitution to suit opposition demands - despite the fact that, from 1996 until 2011, when the Awami League itself changed the rules, the constitution required caretaker governments to oversee elections.
The BNP, The Economist believes, still has a strong grass-roots following, and by all accounts the relentless persecution of recent months has stirred a surge of sympathy for it.
The magazine also quoting the BNP said the Awami League has instigated no fewer than 90,000 lawsuits against it, entangling some 2.5 million party workers in endless litigation.
Apart from higher economic growth and polls that favour the ALs popularity, The Economist highlighted prime minister Sheikh Hasinas capability of making change, especially the shift in forming certain informal alliance with conservative Hefajat-e-Islam.
“Will these advantages persuade her [Sheikh Hasina] to let democracy run its natural course, or will she instead keep trying to tame the current?” The Economist concluded with the question.