Dhaka, July 13 (BDNews24.com): The ruling Awami League (AL) led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in a strong position to win the next Bangladesh parliamentary elections given the deterioration of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by the incarcerated Begum Khaleda Zia, says BMI a New York-based research organization tied to the Fitch group.
The ongoing protests by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are expected to have a minimal impact on the ruling Awami League’s prospects in the upcoming parliamentary elections, BMI says.
“The BNP appears to have significantly weakened since the party chief, Khaleda Zia, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption in February,” the report released on Friday said.
While BNP supporters have taken to the streets in the form of hunger strikes and protest rallies, these are unlikely to pose a significant threat to the Awami League government leading up to the election, BMI said.
“The proxy leadership of Tarique Rahman (son of BNP leader Khaleda Zia) and the numerous arrests of BNP leaders have resulted in the lack of a ‘strong’ figure in Bangladesh to lead the party.”
This contrasts sharply with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to the report.
“Indeed, the recent city polls in Khulna and Gazipur showed that AL remains popular among voters, and that the BNP is losing momentum.”
However, BMI notes that risks to political stability are weighted to the downside.
BNP Boycott of Elections Possible
The AL government has repeatedly rejected the BNP’s calls for the elections to be held under a caretaker government, while the BNP has indicated that it is unwilling to contest without Khaleda at the helm.
“This raises the probability that the BNP could once again boycott the elections just like they did in 2014. We cannot rule out the possibility of opposition-led violent protests breaking out pre- and post-elections,” BMI said.
This was last seen in January 2015 (during the anniversary of the 2014 elections), when the opposition parties mounted mass protests demanding fresh parliamentary elections. This reportedly saw more than 30 people killed and more than 7000 arrested in weeks of political unrest.
BMI further said that support for the ruling party is likely to be strengthened by the populist 2018-19 budget, which saw a significant increase in planned spending that is targeted at the rural agriculture community and social development.
“We maintain Bangladesh’s short-term political risk score at 58.1 (out of 100), but note that risks to social stability are weighted to the downside.”
The government’s plan to increase subsidy, agriculture, and rural development spending by 27.9 percent, 24.8 percent and 8.9 percent respectively in fiscal 2018-19, compared to the previous year, will be positive for voter support, BMI said.
This is due to the fact that 40.4 percent of the total labour force is employed in the agriculture sector, according to the Bangladesh Labour Force Survey.
Spending on agriculture would include subsidies, the distribution of agricultural inputs, farming machinery, and the marketing of crops.