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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bangladeshi prime minister wins fifth term

Sheikh Hasina has defeated her token opposition to become the country’s longest-serving leader

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a fifth term in office in a general election boycotted by the main opposition party. Hasina has been in power for two decades, and is the country’s longest-serving premier.

Shortly after polls closed on Sunday, local media reported that Hasina’s Awami League party had won 172 out of 225 parliamentary seats for which there was data. A final tally for all 300 seats will not be available until Monday, but Sunday night’s results show Hasina on track to secure a fifth term in office.

Read more: What PM Hasina’s India visit brought to Bangladesh

Hasina’s victory was never in doubt. The leading opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the election after thousands of its members were arrested in the weeks leading up to the vote. This left any seats not claimed by the Awami League to be divided up among a scatter of minor parties and independent candidates.

BNP officials accused Hasina of rigging her previous election wins, and weaponizing law enforcement against political rivals. The US sanctioned an elite Bangladeshi police unit in 2021, accusing its members of extrajudicial killings.

Hasina is 76 years old, and is the country’s longest-serving prime minister. The daughter of Bangladesh’s first post-colonial leader, Hasina emerged as a leading figure opposing the military junta that governed the nation throughout the 1980s. Hasina served as prime minister between 1996 and 2001, and again from 2009 onwards.

Read more: Rich nations are responsible for climate tragedy, says PM Hasina

Bangladesh is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and exporters of garments, and Hasina has been hailed for improving the pay and conditions of the roughly four million people who work in the industry. However, stagnating wages coupled with rising food and fuel costs have battered the country’s economy in recent years, culminating in Hasina’s government accepting a $4.7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund last year.

At least 18 arson attacks took place on Friday and Saturday, with ten polling stations targeted, the Associated Press reported. In the most serious incident, four people including a child were killed when a passenger train bound for the capital, Dhaka, was set on fire.

Police blamed the attack on the BNP and arrested seven of the party’s members on Sunday. The party denied any role in the incident.