What Western key-policymakers think about the January 7 election in Bangladesh?


In the aftermath of Bangladesh’s January 7 election, the demand for an unelected “caretaker government” proposed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been met with skepticism and disapproval from key policymakers in the United States. Despite persistent lobbying and substantial financial investments by the BNP, Western leaders, including influential members of the US Congress, firmly reject the notion of holding elections under an unelected entity like a caretaker government.

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, with ties to figures like Bill and Hillary Clinton, has echoed similar sentiments. The Biden administration has consistently conveyed its disapproval, citing concerns that endorsing such a system could set a precedent challenging the democratic norms and political culture of the United States.

Members of the US Congress from both the Democratic and Republican parties have expressed their opposition to the concept of a caretaker government, fearing its potential impact on the established democratic processes. According to some strategists within the US intelligence establishment, political legitimacy, derived from various social and political spheres, takes precedence over constitutional legitimacy. They argue that the BNP has failed to convincingly illustrate political legitimacy, relying mostly on its rank and file for support.

While the BNP may have garnered sympathy from the public, it lacks the trust and confidence required to effect meaningful changes in Bangladesh’s governance. The recent political violence during BNP blockades, though less severe than in previous years, has raised concerns, particularly considering the nation’s economic progress and relative stability.

Since 2008, the BNP has struggled to regain its former prominence, with its political campaigns focusing more on partisan interests than issues concerning the people. The party’s core strategy has been centered around gaining international support, yet tangible results remain elusive. Notably, the BNP has not established strong ties with India, a significant influencer in Bangladeshi politics, due to India’s reservations regarding the BNP’s associations with Jamaat.

Following the January 7 election, BNP advocates have sought to portray it as one-sided and the subsequent government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as illegal. However, critics argue that the BNP’s decision to boycott the election granted a walkover victory to the Awami League. Counterclaims emphasize that the election would have been competitive had the BNP participated.

Despite accusations of an “unfair” election, the Biden administration and Western allies remain unconvinced, reiterating that the absence of the BNP and its allies in the electoral process does not render Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s fourth consecutive term illegal.

Anti-Awami League media outlets and defeated candidates, including Hasanul Huq Inu of JSD, have joined the chorus labeling the January 7 election as flawed and engineered. Rumors suggest that some statements may be extracted through financial incentives provided by the BNP and Jamaat.

In response, the Awami League must stay vigilant and effectively counter ongoing propaganda from opposition parties. The Biden administration and its Western allies, it seems, can only find grounds for intervention if they can establish that the January 7 general election was not free and fair. Otherwise, their attempts to question the election’s inclusivity or portray it as a one-party affair are likely to fall flat.

In examining the broader implications, it becomes evident that the BNP’s strategy of garnering international support for its political emancipation has seen limited success. While it has managed to carve out some space for political movements in the past year, its inability to cozy up to India, a crucial player in Bangladeshi politics, has hindered its diplomatic efforts.

India’s reluctance to engage with the BNP due to its ties with Jamaat adds another layer of complexity. This leaves the BNP with a diplomatic challenge in a region where alliances and support play a pivotal role in shaping political landscapes.

This scenario, while technically legal, raises significant questions about the democratic values of such an uncontested election. Critics argue that a competitive election, with the active participation of the BNP, would have provided a more accurate reflection of the people’s will.

Post-January 7, BNP lobbyists, propagandists, and PR agencies have been persistent in their efforts to sway key policymakers and large media outlets with their interpretation of the election. Terming it as “one-sided”, they have labeled the post-January 7 government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as “illegal”.

In response, critics argue that the election’s one-sided nature was a consequence of the BNP and its allies boycotting the electoral process. They contend that had the BNP participated, the Awami League would have faced formidable opposition, challenging the notion of a walkover victory.

Under the aforementioned circumstances, Awami League needs to stay vigilant on this matter and effectively counter ongoing propaganda of BNP, Jamaat, Jatiya Party and micro parties such as JSD. The ruling party needs to note – the Biden administration and its Western allies can begin fresher bids of destabilizing Bangladesh only if they succeed in proving – January 7 general election was not free and fair. Other than this, they are unable to bring the question of – for example “non-inclusive nature” of the election or brand it as one-party election.


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