Bangladesh Goes to the Polls in First Partisan Election since January 2014

  • Matt Lawson, Matt Lawson

On December 30, the Bangladesh people participated in nation-wide municipal elections, the first multi-party elections since the contentious January 2014 national parliamentary election. 

In the last partisan election the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the largest opposition party, boycotted the polls, leading the Awami League to claim 273 seats of the 350-seat parliament.  Despite a contested election, public support for the Awami League ensured the party would maintain control of national and local government.

On Election Day, underlying tensions between the competing parties were evident.  Voting was suspended in multiple municipalities due to allegations of fraud, vote rigging and violence occurring at polling stations.  In an effort to bring attention to the irregularities surrounding the vote, the BNP filed a complaint with the Election Commission. Earlier in the week, the BNP also requested the deployment of military forces to aid in ensuring the safety and security of the voters.  At least 78 people were injured and one killed in clashes between BNP and Awami League supporters throughout the day, and at least 15 journalists were attacked in the unrest.

The Election Commission maintained that the elections had largely been free and fair.   Furthermore, the Awami League came out as the clear winner with a wider margin of victory than many expected.  Since 2013, the International Republican Institute has been conducting surveys of Bangladesh public opinion to provide electoral insight and support the responsiveness of political parties to the views of the people.

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