The Awami League’s ‘questionable election victory’ will provide comfort to other authoritarian populists who believe curtailing democratic freedoms in exchange for economic growth constitutes a viable model of governance, says a Foreign Policy magazine article.
Such a model, it adds, represents a step back for the prospects of democracy in the Islamic world.
Titled “The World Should Be Watching Bangladesh’s Election Debacle”, the article has termed the AL’s 30 December polls win a bad news for Bangladesh, where, author Sumit Ganguly has insisted, it will aid the consolidation of an authoritarian political order with a democratic facade.
“At a time when democracy across much of the world is under siege or in disarray, the Bangladeshi government’s ability to get away with a profoundly compromised election has disturbing ramifications for the region,” reads the article.
It has mentioned that almost immediately after the results were announced, a host of foreign and domestic analysts pointed out that “the election was far from free or fair”.
Quoting opposition sources and civil society activists, the article has explained that even the election commission was compromised. Jailing of BNP chief Khaleda Zia and lack of level-playing field for the opposition were also listed as reasons of the election results that showed the AL won more than 90 per cent seats.
However, the article has said, the current US administration of president Donald Trump has paid little attention to political developments in Bangladesh.
“It seems highly unlikely that Washington will expend much energy, let alone political capital, to address the shortfalls of this election,” Ganguly has observed.
He has also expressed his views that China and India are unlikely to help restore democratic norms.
“A push toward authoritarianism will meet little resistance from the regime of prime minister Narendra Modi in India. Modi, who is, at best, a reluctant democrat, has studiously avoided any criticism of the electoral process,” the author has noted.
On China, he has argued that as long as Beijing can continue to expand its diplomatic and economic footprint within Bangladesh, it will raise no uncomfortable questions about the country’s internal political arrangements.
Bangladesh’s political order, according to the Foreign Policy article, “will have consequences for the region and beyond”.
It has called Bangladesh a predominantly Islamic country, which is home to close to 10 per cent of the world’s Muslim population.
The Bangladesh case, the author has written, “adds to the growing roster of states in South Asia, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and even India, where democracy is — to varying degrees — under duress.”
“Worse still, the drift toward authoritarianism may actually lead to greater political instability within Bangladesh as legitimate channels of dissent will become increasingly blocked.”
“The regime’s hostility toward the opposition was not the only marker of its disregard for democratic procedures. Well before the elections it had demonstrated an appetite for squelching public dissent,” the article has concluded.