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Jan 8, 2024, 4:52pm EST
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Semafor Signals

Bangladesh leader wins fourth straight term as opposition boycotts vote

Insights from Al Jazeera, Nikkei Asia, Reuters

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Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses a rally during an election campaign in Sylhet on December 20, 2023, ahead of the general elections.
AFP via Getty Images
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The News

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in Sunday’s general election, which was plagued by low voter turnout and a boycott by opposition parties. Hasina’s Awami League won more than 220 of the 299 seats in parliament.

The run-up to the elections had been marred by violence, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – the country’s main opposition –began a 48-hour general strike on the eve of the election, calling on voters to boycott the poll.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Opposition parties question election credibility amid flurry of “dummy candidates”

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Sources:  
Al Jazeera, Reuters, TIME

The election saw the ruling Awami League field hundreds of independents, which the opposition says are “dummy candidates”, propped up to try to make a one-sided sham vote look credible, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the BNP – which has now boycotted two out of the past three elections – alleged widespread intimidation, voter suppression and vote-rigging tactics, with one standing committee member telling TIME magazine previously that the vote was “stolen way before” election day. Following the poll, the BNP dismissed the new government as “illegitimate” and vowed to protest the results until there is a fresh election under a neutral caretaker administration.

Fears U.S. may impose trade sanctions over elections that were “not free or fair”

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Sources:  
Nikkei Asia, The Dhaka Tribune, Deutsche Welle

The State Department said Monday the latest elections were not “not free or fair”, adding to fears that the U.S. – the biggest customer for Bangladesh’s multibillion-dollar garment industry – may now move to impose trade sanctions. Last September, Washington imposed visa restrictions against Bangladeshi politicians and law enforcement officials involved in undermining democratic elections – while it has also sanctioned Bangladeshi paramilitaries over human rights violations. While any trade sanctions are hypothetical and still seen as unlikely, the blow they would inflict on Bangladesh’s “sputtering economy” cannot be overstated, one South Asia expert at the DC-based Wilson Center told Nikkei Asia. In contrast to the strained U.S. ties, however, relations with China appeared unharmed by the vote – the Dhaka Tribune reported that Beijing’s ambassador was quick to congratulate Hasina on her win and reaffirm the two countries’ working relationship.

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