Unopposed election

Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina has won her fifth term in power in election marred by allegations of pre-poll rigging.

Elections in sham democracies are often portrayed as a symbol of freedom and democracy, but in reality, they are nothing more than a facade. These sham democracies use elections to create an illusion of democracy, while in reality, they are controlled by a select few who manipulate the system to remain in power. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won her fifth term in power in an election marred by the allegations of pre-poll rigging to benefit her Awami League and several other abuses of power, which led to an opposition boycott.

Like Pakistan, Bangladesh has also spent a large part of its history under direct or indirect military rule. However, one marked difference between the two is that nepotism in Bangladeshi politics is so strong that it makes Pakistan look like a meritocracy. At least we have experimented with leaders not named Bhutto, Sharif, or ‘General’. Every single elected government of Bangladesh has been led or controlled by either the country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his daughter Hasina, or Khaleda Zia, the widow of the country’s first military dictator, Gen Ziaur Rehman.

The recent Bangladeshi elections saw the Bangladesh National Party — led by Zia and her son — labeled a “terrorist organisation”, and international observers slamming Hasina’s government for human rights abuses and rigging, to the extent that analysts said Hasina’s Awami League decided against fielding candidates in a few constituencies to avoid winning ‘too many’ seats. Turnout was also unsurprisingly low — about 40% — as the people feel their votes do not matter.

The election in Bangladesh is a reminder that in broken democracies, elections are not the vehicle by which the people choose their leaders, but only a tool used by the ruling party to maintain their grip on power. For true democracy to flourish, there must be a free and independent press, a strong and independent judiciary, and a commitment to the rule of law. Without these institutions, any election is just an exercise in futility.

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