Election boycott in Bangladesh no cause for alarm – former Indian diplomat

Low voter turnout should not be interpreted as public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Veena Sikri has told RT © RT

Neither the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s boycott of Sunday’s elections nor the exclusion of the country’s main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami should affect the legitimacy of incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s likely victory, former Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh, Veena Sikri, told RT on Sunday.

“Low voter turnout doesn’t necessarily reflect dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party. It will also reflect a great deal of concern with the BNP and other parties who have been known to cause violence and loss of life and loss of property and destruction of infrastructure, and so it’s not that they are very popular either with the people,” Siki said.

Turnout was reported at just 40% after polls closed on Sunday, compared to over 80% when the last election was held in 2018, after the BNP called a two-day nationwide strike and urged voters to stay home to avoid legitimizing the incumbent with their participation. The BNP’s leader, Khaleda Zia, is under house arrest on corruption charges that her supporters say are politically motivated.

With no major-party challengers participating in the vote, the victory of Hasina and her Awami League are all but assured, even as critics accuse the politician of vote-rigging after she refused to allow a neutral caretaker government to administer the election. Hasina, who has blamed the opposition for a pre-election surge in violence, insisted she did not need to prove her legitimacy to anyone but “the people of Bangladesh.”

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