Years of deadlock between the two main political parties, the Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have caused governance breakdowns, narrowed political debate, eroded the rule of law and widened social divisions. The continued threat of jihadist violence exacerbates these problems. Meanwhile, Bangladesh struggles to accommodate the presence of an estimated one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, whose return appears unlikely any time soon. Crisis Group aims to reduce conflict risks, including the spread of militancy, arising from political stagnation; to promote inclusive and accountable democratic institutions; and to urge adequate assistance for the refugees until conditions allow for safe return.

CrisisWatch Bangladesh

Unchanged Situation

Ruling Awami League won fourth consecutive election marred by low turnout and boycott by main opposition party, while insecurity and hardship continued in Rohingya refugee camps. 

Awami League secured massive majority in largely uncontested election. Awami League 7 Jan secured 222 of 300 elected seats in national parliament, awarding PM Sheikh Hasina another five-year term that marks her fourth consecutive and fifth overall election victory; Awami League members who ran as “independent” won additional 61 seats. Poll, however, was uncompetitive as main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted vote following arrest of most of its party leaders since Oct. Officials claimed turnout was 42%, although many suspected real figure was as low as 28%. Voting on 7 Jan passed without major incident, although violence occurred between supporters of official Awami League candidates and those standing as independents. Potential arson on train in capital Dhaka 5 Jan killed four, which govt blamed on BNP, while police arrested Awami League youth leader after he 15 Jan allegedly hacked to death BNP supporter in Mymensingh city. After vote, U.S., UK and Canada said poll fell short of democratic standards, while India, China and Russia enthusiastically supported its outcome; threat of U.S. sanctions appeared to recede. Hasina now faces challenge of navigating crisis of declining foreign currency reserves and high inflation. While election marks major blow to BNP, party announced plans to hold “black flag” processions countrywide on 30 Jan to coincide with first session of new parliament; although party was able to reopen head office in Dhaka, Hasina before poll hinted at further crackdowns, including possible deregistration of party. 

Insecurity and hardship continued in Rohingya refugee camps. Newly-appointed FM Hasan Mahmud 14 Jan signalled support for proposed repatriation pilot project to return 3,000 refugees to Myanmar’s Rakhine state; heavy fighting in Rakhine, however, cast doubt over returns (see Myanmar). Meanwhile, police said armed and criminal violence 4-16 Jan killed four refugees. UN 23 Jan reported at least 569 Rohingya dead or missing in attempts to flee Bangladesh/Myanmar in 2023, highest toll since 2014. Following election, national newspapers displayed growing anti-Rohingya sentiment.

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In The News

7 jan 2024
There is a risk of increased violence after the polls [in Bangladesh]. The New York Times

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia
5 jan 2024
The election will not resolve Bangladesh’s political crisis … Since the 2008 election … the country has not held a credible national election. The Guardian

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia
10 nov 2022
You might ask ‘why would the military be interested in negotiating to take them [Rohingya refugees] back when it was the one that forced them to leave for the military re... The New Humanitarian

Thomas Kean

Senior Consultant, Myanmar & Bangladesh
28 dec 2019
Les autorités [Birmanes] ont donc pris des mesures qui touchent à la liberté de mouvement. Les réfugiés n’ont plus le droit de sortir des camps et les autorités ont coupé... RFI

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia

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