Spurt in violence feared ahead of general elections in polarised Bangladesh

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has a tall task ahead as the countrys primary opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) gears up to launch a massive rally in Dhaka on Saturday despite the Dhaka Metropolitan Polices (DMP) refusal to give a go-ahead. Several members and supporters of the BNP have started to congregate at the party headquarters in the capital.

Last month, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki was summoned by the South Asian nation’s foreign ministry after he said free and fair elections are critical.

Hasina has been under the spotlight apparently for being authoritarian especially after the last two general elections in 2013 and 2018 proved to be controversial and touted as “seriously lopsided.”

“We expect the next election will be a better one. Free and fair elections need to be done here. That’s my strong hope,” he said at an event.

However, Japan is not the only country to have underlined the need to have fair elections. As many as 15 countries’ foreign missions in Bangladesh have come forth in charting a joint statement urging the authorities to ensure “free, fair, inclusive and peaceful electoral processes.”

The missions of the US, UK, European Union, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland besides Japan are signatories of the joint statement.

“We, as friends and partners of Bangladesh, are eager to further support its success, reaffirm the importance of free, fair, inclusive, and peaceful electoral processes in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the statement read.

They highlighted the fundamental role democracy plays in protecting human rights and promoting development in Bangladesh and the importance of free expression, peaceful assembly and elections, among others outlined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, what is interesting is that many in the BNP is also keen to reach out to India, “There are many moderate members within the BNP and they realise the new contours of politics. They are keen to strike a balance with India, known to have close relations with Hasina and Awami League,” an analyst told India Narrative.

Several of them reached out to India even in the last elections of 2018 in Bangladesh.

“This is their chance to bounce back and the BNP is coming out very strongly against the Awami League government,” the analyst said, adding that there is rising fear over violence breaking out in the run up to the general elections.

The UK has already issued a travel advisory to its citizens as the political rallies are expected to put life out of gear.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Bangladesh as a joho jatri or a co-passenger in India’s economic and social journey.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)





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