Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to roll to a fourth consecutive term as the gutted opposition boycotts what it calls an unfair election.
There is little doubt that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will seize a fourth consecutive term when Bangladesh goes to the polls on Sunday. The bigger question is what will remain of the country’s democracy.
The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has been crushed and left with little mobilizing capacity. Its leaders who are not already in jail are bogged down with endless court appointments or are in hiding with the police on their tail. Ms. Hasina’s Awami League, in power since 2009, has cleared the way for a race so one-sided that the party urged its own contestants to prop up dummy candidates so it does not look as if they won unchallenged.
The B.N.P. has boycotted the vote, after Ms. Hasina rejected its demand that she step aside during the campaign period so the election could be held under a neutral administration. Even as Bangladesh has appeared to be finding a path to prosperity and shedding a legacy of coups and assassinations, the uncontested election shows how politics in this country of 170 million remains hostage to decades of bad blood between the two major parties.
The possibility of violence hangs in the air. The opposition’s effort to protest the vote, with repeated calls for nationwide strikes and civil disobedience, has been met with an intensified crackdown. More than 20,000 B.N.P. members and leaders have been arrested since the party’s last major rally, in October, according to party leaders and lawyers.