Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
India’s influential English newspaper The Hindu in its editorial titles ‘Hasina’s triumph: on Bangladesh election results’ said, “Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party was always going to win Sunday’s parliamentary election. She remains immensely popular, her government sought a fresh mandate with a formidable record of economic growth and social progress and her party, the Awami League, set the agenda for the election and dominated the campaign. Still, the scale of the victory would have taken even her supporters by surprise. The party’s Grand Alliance won 288 of the 299 seats contested, more than the 234 seats it won in 2014 when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the poll. This time, the Opposition coalition Jatiya Oikya Front, led by the BNP, secured only seven seats. But there are conflicting claims about the way the election was conducted. As soon as the results were known, Kamal Hossain, the leader of the Opposition coalition, called it a farcical election and demanded that the Election Commission call a fresh poll. More than 40 Opposition candidates pulled out of the race after voting began on Sunday, alleging rigging. However, the Election Monitoring Forum and the SAARC Human Rights Foundation, which includes both local and international observers, said in its preliminary evaluation that the election was “much freer and fairer” than previous ones. In the past, Bangladesh had seen governments declining to hold elections, one being cancelled and called again, and others being delayed amid violence. This time the election was called on time. Participation was higher, with the turnout at 66%, compared to 51% in 2014.
“The challenge before Ms. Hasina is daunting. To begin with, she has to heal a country rattled by political divisions and violence. The government and the Election Commission could have held the election without being open to charges that it was manipulated. There was a crackdown on the Opposition in the run-up to polling day. Pro-Opposition websites were taken down, thousands of activists were jailed, and political violence was unleashed to target BNP members. The situation was so grave that even one of the election commissioners said there was no level playing field. The Election Commission should conduct a fair investigation into allegations of rigging to restore faith in the poll process. Ms. Hasina should reach out to the Opposition. Her otherwise impressive record has been marred by her government’s authoritarian character. The victory is a chance for Ms. Hasina to mend her ways, to be more inclusive and run a government that respects the rule of law, the basic rights of citizens and institutional freedom. For India, Ms. Hasina’s victory is good news. New Delhi and Dhaka have deepened economic, security and strategic ties under her leadership. This should continue, no matter what the general election outcome in India in 2019.”
Following the December 30 general election in Bangladesh, where the ruling Awami League and its alliance partners have bagged 292 seats out of 300 seats in the parliament, leaders and important individuals in the world are already giving reactions via social media, especially Twitter.
On December 31, 2018 at 12:42 pm, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Spoke to Sheikh Hasina Ji and congratulated her on the resounding victory in the Bangladesh elections. Wished her the very best for the tenure ahead.”
On the same day at 10:47 pm, former President of Sri Lanka and a notorious dictator and corruption-plagued leader Mahindra Rajapaksa tweeted, “I’d like to congratulate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League, on their landslide victory at the General Election held yesterday. I’m confident that your leadership will steer Bangladesh towards peace and prosperity.”
Alfons Lopez Tena #FBPE, Jurist, Spanish Judiciary Council’s & Catalan Parliament’s former member at 8:48 pm tweeted, “Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League Party wins 288 of 300 parliamentary seats in Bangladesh. A remarkable restrain, her election-rigging, ballot-stuffing, opposition harassing, and dissenters-jailing have stopped short of getting all the 300 seats she could have easily won.”
Charles Onyago-Obbo, publisher of africapedia.com at 3:33 pm tweeted, “I used to think women leaders don’t steal elections like the men do. Or if they did, only “small” “small” (like some claim Sirleaf did in Liberia). But after the weekend brazen mugging of the vote by Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League in Bangladesh, I am ready to change my mind.”
World Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume tweeted, “Ideally, Bangladesh could choose a government that delivers economic growth while discouraging religious extremism and respecting democratic values. Unfortunately, in #BangladeshElection2018 no such choice exists.”
Robert Ward, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit on December 30 tweeted, “As #Bangladesh votes in today’s election, a reminder that it w b world’s 2nd fastest growing economy in 2019. #BangladeshElection caps full year of politics for India’s neighbours – govt changes in Pakistan, Maldives, upheaval in Sri Lanka. India goes to polls in April/May 2019.
Geeta Mohan, Foreign Affairs Editor, #IndiaToday tweeted, “We welcome the successful completion of the Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. India warmly congratulates the people of Bangladesh for reaffirming their faith in democracy, development and the vision of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has telephoned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier this morning to convey his heartiest congratulations on the decisive results of the election. He expressed confidence that the partnership between India and Bangladesh will continue to flourish under her far-sighted leadership. PM also reiterated the priority India attaches to Bangladesh as a neighbour, a close partner for regional development, security and cooperation, and a central pillar.”
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch tweeted, “With serious allegations of voter intimidation, restrictions on opposition poling agents and several candidates seeking a re-poll there are concerns about credibility of #BangladeshElection2018.”
TIME in its reports titled ‘They Threaten Everyone.’ Sheikh Hasina’s Landslide Win in Bangladesh Marred by Voter Suppression’ “…Bangladeshi editors and journalists say it’s increasingly difficult to publish news that embarrasses the government. Some estimate they self-censor at least two-thirds of their stories. “I am not sure if I want to stay in this country now that the Awami League will feel even more entitled to stifle dissent,” says one TV journalist, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.”
German news outlet DW in its report titled ‘Has Bangladesh’s ruling party won a ‘managed’ election?’ said, “Despite desperate requests from opposition parties, the international community did not send many election observers to the Muslim-majority country to monitor the election, making it difficult to get an independent opinion about yesterday’s voting. There were not enough local observers to watch the voting process either.”
The Economist in its report titled ‘Bangladesh’s prime minister wins a fourth term, in ruthless fashion’ said, “AS RESULTS TRICKLED in following a turbulent day of voting, it grew increasingly clear that Sheikh Hasina Wajed was romping towards an unprecedented fourth five-year term as prime minister of Bangladesh. Along with a clutch of smaller allies, her Awami League party looked set to capture a garish 82% of the popular vote. A rival alliance dominated by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) appeared unlikely to muster more than a handful of the 300 parliamentary seats. But the embarrassingly skewed tally suggested that the BNP was not really the biggest loser. The biggest loss was for democracy itself.
“……The question now is whether the Awami League’s landslide will bring relief, in the form of a government confident enough to ease up, or increased repression. A recent tweet from Sheikh Hasina’s influential son, Sajeeb Wajed [Sajeeb Wazed Joy], is not reassuring in this regard: “Western media has called every eastern leader who developed his country rapidly authoritarian. Leaders like #Mahatir of #Malaysia, #LeeKwanYu of #Singapore. Can’t find any other fault, sling authoritarian mud!”