Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL biweekly Election Update (25 December 2023 – 7 January 2024)

From 25 December 2023 and Election Day on 7 January 2024, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) monitored a political and electoral landscape marred with instances of political violence between Awami League (AL) and independent candidates as well as arson attacks to polling centres and election camps, anti-election campaigns by the opposition parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the continued arrests of opposition leaders and activists.1

The 12th Parliamentary Elections saw a variety of concerning incidents, ranging from the boycotting of polls by candidates citing rigging allegations to clashes between political factions.2 The voter turnout was the lowest in the history of Bangladeshi elections since the general election in 1996, with a vast majority of voters citing that they already knew the result of the election, given that it was one-sided in nature.3 The Chief Election Commissioner said the voter turnout was 28%, but was promptly interrupted and ‘corrected’, after which he claimed a 40% voter turnout.4 

Reports suggested that AL supporters engaged in tactics such as casting multiple votes, ballot box stuffing, creating artificial queues to impress media, and bringing in non-voters to create a false impression of voter presence.5 Journalists had reportedly witnessed acts of electoral misconduct at polling centres, while multiple journalists were harassed and attacked for taking pictures and videos of these misconducts.6 Despite these, the Election Commission said the elections were ‘free and fair’.7 

Certain international observers, including former US Congressman Jim Bates, deemed the election 'free and fair,' but the contrast with domestic dissatisfaction and allegations raised questions about the credibility of certain observer groups and individuals.8

The Election Day scenario was marked by a deepening political divide, with BNP persisting in its movement, opposition parties demanding a new election, and instances of violence and electoral misconduct creating tensions.9 Foreign reactions, while varied, do not fully align with the domestic sentiment, raising questions about the international perception of the election. The electoral landscape remains tumultuous, leaving the nation grappling with the aftermath of a contentious electoral process marred by accusations of irregularities, violence, and a lack of confidence in the electoral system's integrity.

READ THE FULL BRIEFER HERE: Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL biweekly Election Update (25 December 2023 - 7 January 2024)


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