Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL Biweekly Election Update (2-15 October 2023)

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is publishing a biweekly briefer called "Bangladesh in Focus" which sheds light on the situation in Bangladesh. "Bangladesh in Focus" seeks to raise awareness on the political situation and electoral environment in the country.

Summary (2-15 October 2023)

Between the 2nd and 15th of October, several significant developments occurred in Bangladesh's political landscape. Multiple political parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, demanded that the upcoming elections be held under a neutral caretaker government. This demand led to discussions and debates about the election's fairness and legitimacy. On the other hand, various smaller Islamist parties including the Bangladesh Supreme Party,, Bangladesh Islami Oikya Jote, Krishak Sramik Party, Aashiqeen-e-Awlia Oikya Parishad, Bangladesh Janodal and National Awami Party (NAP Bhashani) formed a coalition to emerge as the "third force" in the elections due to the absence of major opposition parties; while some parties with the backing of the ruling party integrated into what were called "King's Parties'' to secure votes.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) organised a road march and other processions demanding the release of its leader Khaleda Zia as well as allowing her to go abroad for better treatment as she requires a liver transplant, and an election under a neutral caretaker government. Clashes occurred between different political groups during the road march which led to casualties. The Awami League (AL) had also organised multiple processions in the form of ‘peace and development’ rallies, and had also called for more throughout the month of October. Several opposition political leaders and activists have also been arrested under ‘fictitious’ cases and old ‘sabotage’ cases.

International organisations, delegations and diplomats expressed concerns about the upcoming election's long-term stability and fairness, while the United Nations Secretary-General voiced concerns about human rights in Bangladesh. A pre-election assessment team from the United States had also come to Bangladesh to engage with various political parties and assess the situation regarding the upcoming election; the result of which was them recommending a dialogue between AL and BNP. The Chief Election Commissioner’s remarks regarding the legitimacy of the upcoming election had also sparked concern amongst international groups due to his contradictory remarks regarding what will make the upcoming election successful, while the Prime Minister (PM) and ruling-party leaders continue to reiterate that the upcoming election will be free, fair and democratic.

Read the full briefer here: "Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL Biweekly Election Update (2-15 October 2023)"



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