Bangladesh opposition boycotts elections

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) join in a rally at Naya Paltan area in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 28, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/File Photo

On the eve of the closure of nominations for Bangladesh’s parliamentary election scheduled for January 7, the biggest opposition party in the country has officially announced its decision to abstain from participating in the election. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), declared that their non-participation is grounded in perceived irregularities by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.

This decision removes the sole party that posed a realistic challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bid for a fourth consecutive term in power.

BNP had refrained from submitting nominations for any seats, showing the party’s stance against participating in any election under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, citing concerns over a crackdown that resulted in the arrest of thousands of its members.

The BNP, along with other parties, has been advocating for Hasina to step down and allow a neutral government to oversee the polls, a demand the government deems unconstitutional. Human Rights Watch expressed concerns about a violent autocratic crackdown, reporting almost 10,000 opposition activists arrested and at least 16 fatalities since protests intensified in October.

Accusing Hasina of rigging previous elections, BNP claimed that over 18,090 leaders and supporters had been arrested in an unprecedented crackdown since this October.

While Hasina’s tenure has witnessed significant economic growth, the international community is worried regarding the democratic regression and the substantial number of extrajudicial killings. Other major opposition parties, such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Andolon Bangladesh, have also announced their boycott of the elections. The Election Commission is expected to confirm participating parties next week, with some BNP officials reportedly leaving the party to contest seats independently.

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