It is becoming hard to know whether Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, is a cynically good actress or cut off from political reality. Smiling before journalists in Dhaka, the capital, on January 6th, she chided opposition parties for their “mistake” in boycotting general elections the day before, then waved aside doubts over the legitimacy of her victory. Either way, her country’s democracy is in a rotten state. Of a potential electorate of 92m (out of more than 150m people), only a minority turned out. The government says just under 40% voted in contested seats; others think much less. It does not give Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL), which has ruled since 2009, much of a basis for another term. Many polling stations saw almost no voters, then suspiciously large numbers of ballots cast late in the day. Of the 300 constituencies, just over half, 153, had no contest at all, since only AL candidates or allies registered. In the capital voting took place in just nine of 20 seats.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and a host of smaller parties refused a contest they said would be unfair unless supervised by a caretaker government of the kind seen in the previous four elections. But Sheikh Hasina scrapped the constitutional provision for that in 2011.
The BNP’s leader, Khaleda Zia, long a bitter rival to the prime minister, remains under what amounts to house arrest. Mohammad Hossain Ershad, a former dictator who leads the third-biggest party, Jatiyo, has been locked up in an army hospital since he belatedly joined the poll boycott. A fourth party, Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist and thuggish outfit, was banned from the polls for being too religious. On January 7th police arrested yet more opposition figures, including a close adviser to Mrs Zia as he left a meeting with journalists. Thousands of activists have been detained.
Full Article: Bangladesh’s election: Another beating | The Economist.