SREENAGAR, Bangladesh (AP) – Following widespread allegations of misconduct in the last national vote, Bangladesh’s ruling party will win a series of local elections to elect representatives at the village level, while the country’s largest opposition party is boycotting.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League party will almost certainly win the election for 848 rural councils on Thursday. A total of 4571 local councils, known as union parishes and responsible for community development and public welfare services at the village level, are contested in phases.
In the first phase of elections for 204 councils in June, 148 ruling party candidates won, with the remainder going to independents.
Analysts say this is an opportunity for the ruling party to consolidate its position ahead of the next general election in 2023. It follows the trend in the last two parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2018, which Hasina’s party won landslide despite allegations of election manipulation and manipulation.
“The way in which the political and institutional structure was designed and implemented is, in my opinion, difficult to imagine that there will be genuinely free and fair elections in Bangladesh in the next round,” said Iftekharuzzaman, who heads the Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin- based on Transparency International.
He blamed the electoral commission for the incompetence and loyalty of the top officials to the ruling party.
“We have decided to stay out of these local elections,” said Rumeen Farhana, an MP for the largest opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, an arch rival of Hasina. “My party has made its position very clear that we will not run the next parliamentary elections without a non-party, neutral government.”
“Since 2014 the electoral process has been destroyed, from the grassroots to the national level, and it’s getting worse and worse. Voters no longer have a choice of choosing their candidates, ”she said.
Obaidul Qauder, the general secretary of the Awami League, said people from Zia’s party were running as independent candidates.
“If you have the courage, take part in the elections visibly with your party symbol,” he told reporters.
The opposition often says that a distorted political atmosphere prevents them from participating fairly in national elections.
Farhana says her activists across the country face politically motivated charges, a common tactic in Bangladesh to keep the opposition engaged in legal protection. Authorities routinely deny such allegations, saying the trials stem from specific charges.
Since 1991, when Bangladesh returned to a democratic system, Hasina and Zia took turns ruling the country before Hasina came to power with an overwhelming victory in the 2008 elections, which were accepted as free and fair.
But that has changed. Election observation groups say more than half of the 300-seat constituencies in parliament were elected unchallenged by the ruling party in 2014, while balloting was common practice in 2018 amid allegations of intimidation.
Iftekharuzzaman said politics in Bangladesh among the two major parties has become a zero-sum game, and they have used the electoral commission and public administration for their partisan advantage.
“The main problem lies in the dysfunctional institution of the electoral commission … as well as the corruption allegations against them,” he said.
The electoral commission has rejected the allegations, stating that they are properly performing their constitutional duties.
Iftekharuzzaman said democracy is the main sacrifice as the country’s leaders can no longer claim full legitimacy in elections.
“They do not have the real mandate of the people and they do not have the confidence to really assert themselves as representatives of the public,” he said.
Many voters feel they have little choice.
“I want an election that includes all parties that used to take place in Bangladesh and that is now lost,” said Mohammed Mojibor, a businessman. “This choice is one-sided. I don’t know about others, but I personally think that’s unacceptable. ”