Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League on Monday won an absolute majority, and a fourth consecutive term in government, in the Bangladesh general elections amidst an opposition boycott of the polls and poor voter turnout.
Hasina, 76, is the daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and has been serving as the country’s prime minister since 1996. However, the polls were marred by controversy, as the primary opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)—led by Khaleda Zia—boycotted the polls in protest Hasina’s refusal to step down and let an impartial body oversee the general election. The at-times violent polls also saw a record-low turnout, with only around 40 percent of registered voters exercising their right compared to over 80 percent during the last elections in 2018.
According to initial results, the Awami League secured 167 out of 227 seats in the election, with the results of the remainder yet to be announced. Independent candidates, many of them Awami League party members of various ranks, won 49 seats. Individually, Hasina won 249,962 votes from her constituency against her nearest rival’s 469. Overall, polls were held against 299 directly elected parliamentary seats, with voting on one constituency delayed indefinitely due to the death of an independent contestant days ahead of the vote due to natural causes.
Ahead of the polls, the U.S. and other Western states had called for a free and fair election, noting Bangladesh was evolving into a one-party state. Hasina’s government has also been accused of rampant human rights abuses and a ruthless opposition crackdown.
Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch told the AFP news agency on Sunday that the government had failed to reassure opposition supporters that the polls would be fair, warning that “many fear a further crackdown.”