Dhaka, Bangladesh – As election campaigning attracts to an in depth, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged Bengalis to vote for the “boat” – an emblem of her ruling occasion that has dominated Bangladesh‘s political scene for the previous decade.
Loudspeakers have been blurting out pro-government marketing campaign songs to woo voters, whereas the streets of Dhaka have been emblazoned with posters of Hasina’s Awami League (AL) occasion and the Grand Alliance coalition.
In distinction, the opposition has remained largely silent forward of Sunday’s elections, citing intimidation and risk of arrest by legislation enforcement businesses.
On Friday, the streets had been comparatively quieter because the events ended their close to month-long bitter marketing campaign marred by violence.
The principle opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Social gathering (BNP), whose chief Khaleda Zia was jailed in February for corruption, stated 1000’s of supporters have been arrested forward of the ballot, and scores of its candidates have been attacked.
So as to oust Hasina, the BNP has joined forces with Kamal Hossain, a number one lawyer who was beforehand an in depth ally of Hasina’s father, additionally Bangladesh’s founding president.
Critics, together with Hossain, have accused Hasina, who’s searching for workplace for a 3rd consecutive time period, of authoritarian rule, noting elevated curbs on press freedom.
However Hasina, who wrapped up her marketing campaign with a warning to voters to “stay alert to subversive exercise of the BNP and its cohorts”, has promoted a special narrative – Bangladesh’s spectacular financial development prior to now decade below her rule.
GDP has grown, however if you happen to have a look at the inequality, it has intensified in line with credible research and information
Asif Nazrul, professor of legislation at College of Dhaka
‘From darkness to prosperity’
Since she took energy in 2008, Bangladesh’s per capital earnings has seen a 3 fold improve. The nation’s GDP stood at $250bn in 2017, in line with the IMF, and final 12 months clocked a development charge of seven.28 %.
“I promise to construct a extra lovely future by studying from the previous. We are going to construct a non-communal golden Bangladesh free from starvation, poverty and illiteracy as cherished by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” Hasina stated on the launch of her occasion manifesto two weeks in the past.
The AL’s manifesto guarantees to make Bangladesh, one of many world’s most densely populated international locations with a inhabitants of 160 million, a middle-income nation by 2021 and triple its present per capita earnings of $1,750 within the subsequent decade.
The garment business has emerged as one of many predominant pillars of the economic system, offering jobs to 4.5 million folks. It makes up 14 % of the GDP and practically 80 per cent of the nation’s exports value $35bn.
Almost 2.5 million Bangladeshi expatriates ship house about $15bn yearly in remittance.
The South Asian nation has carried out properly on most human growth index indicators by controlling its inhabitants development, bettering toddler mortality drastically that has resulted into greater life expectancy, which at 72 years, has surpassed these of India and Pakistan.
Mahbubul Alam Hanif, a senior AL chief, stated there was growth in each sector below Hasina.
“Sheikh Hasina introduced the nation out of darkness to prosperity,” AL Joint Common Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif stated. “The nation has completely reworked within the final 10 years.”
Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, an economist, acknowledged the excessive development charge, however stated way more was wanted remained to develop the banking sector, which he stated has suffered from non-performing loans.
“The devastating scenario within the banking sector was not correctly handled. Even after 80 % unhealthy mortgage on the Fundamental Financial institution no motion was taken. There are unhealthy loans nonetheless in authorities banks. This was merely looting,” Khaled stated.
Growth over democracy
Entrepreneurs have lauded the federal government for its pro-business insurance policies however some lamented the gradual tempo of infrastructure.
Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Affiliation of Software program and Info Companies (BASIS), the most important umbrella organisation representing the nation’s ICT sector, stated “the federal government has been honest about supporting native companies”.
However many critics and opposition leaders have raised their issues at “inequitable development” that they are saying has favoured the nation’s rich class.
Asif Nazrul, professor of legislation at College of Dhaka, says that inequality has risen within the final decade.
“It’s true that the GDP has grown. However if you happen to have a look at the inequality, it has intensified in line with credible research and information,” the Dhaka professor stated.
Professor Nazrul stated the ruling occasion is promising “growth minus democracy”.
“For those who learn our structure and the historical past of our liberation motion, does it say anyplace: ‘you possibly can take pleasure in fruits of growth if you’re able to sacrifice your democratic rights’.”
“Who has given the federal government the correct to proclaim that ‘we have now given you growth, don’t hassle about democracy’.”
A restaurant proprietor in Dhaka’s Kawran Bazaar space echoed that sentiment, saying his “enterprise has not grown a lot, within the final 5 years”.
The 30-year-old, who requested anonymity for concern of reprisal, informed Al Jazeera: “I’m not pleased with the federal government … Many supporters of the ruling occasion go to my restaurant and ask us to vote for them. I can not let you know which occasion I’m going to vote for.”
‘Nobody can survive wrath of ruling occasion’
Mouri Huq (not her actual title), 31, who works within the training sector and helps BNP, described Hasina’s decade-long rule as “an extended nightmare”.
“Nobody may survive the wrath of the ruling occasion if they’d a special political place than the federal government. I can cite so many examples of this from my expertise,” she stated.
“The enforced disappearances left the households of the victims questioning if their family members are alive or lifeless. A scenario like that by no means existed earlier than.”
Many critics and opposition supporters Al Jazeera spoke to stated they feared expressing their opinions within the public.
Editors have adopted self-censorship as authorities handed a Digital Safety Act that has been dubbed as “draconian” by rights teams. Underneath the legislation handed in September, police officers can search or arrest anybody with out a warrant.
The arrest of famend photographer Shahidul Alam in August for expressing his opinion in opposition to the federal government induced an outcry. He’s since out on bail but when he’s convicted below the ICT legislation, he may withstand 14 years in jail.
The opposition, which has accused Hasina muzzling press freedom, has pledged to strike down the media legal guidelines handed by the federal government if it involves energy.
However Asaduzzaman Noor, the minister of tradition, rejected the costs in opposition to Hasina as “nothing however blame-game”.
“She belongs to the folks, she belongs to the soil, and she or he is the daughter of the daddy of the nation,” stated the 72-year-old actor-turned chief.
“Her dedication is to enhance the standard of lives of individuals of Bangladesh. To attain that, she has to struggle in opposition to many odds, however some folks suppose she is authoritarian, however it’s not so,” he added.
“She is combating for the folks, not for the vested pursuits.”