Bangladesh is at a crossroads. After years of political turmoil and uncertainty, the country’s future as a democratic nation is uncertain. The current government has been accused of curbing democracy and suppressing dissent, leading many to believe that the country is headed towards dictatorship.
The Rise of Authoritarianism
Since coming to power in 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has been accused of limiting press freedom, stifling dissent, and cracking down on opposition voices. The government has been accused of using extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture to maintain power.
Many opposition leaders have been jailed or exiled with the main opposition party BNP having not contested in the previous elections and political violence has become a common occurrence in the country. The government has also been accused of manipulating elections with security forces facing questions on ballot management post conclusion of polls and increasingly exercising control on independent institutions, including the judiciary, to consolidate its power.
The Impact on Democracy
The erosion of democracy in Bangladesh is alarming, and its impact is already being felt. The country has been placed near the bottom of global democracy rankings, and freedom of the press is in decline. Civil society organisations and activists are facing unprecedented pressure, and human rights abuses are widespread.
The Way Forward
Bangladesh needs to take immediate steps to protect its democracy and regain its position as a vibrant, democratic nation. The government must respect human rights, allow the press to operate freely, and release political prisoners. It must also ensure that independent institutions, including the judiciary, are not subject to government control.
The international community can play an important role in supporting democratic forces in Bangladesh. International pressure can help to promote human rights, democracy, and good governance. Additionally, the civil society organisations and the media have a critical role in defending democratic values and promoting accountability.
After gaining its independence in 1971, Bangladesh has made significant progress. Nonetheless, the nation is currently at a pivotal point in its history. The administration must act immediately to address the grave concerns regarding the deterioration of democracy and human rights. The road ahead is difficult, but with the right policies and assistance, Bangladesh may reclaim its status as a dynamic, democratic country.
Bangladesh has a general election scheduled in December 2023 and it remains to be seen if they are conducted transparently or if there are even more intentional irregularities in the process that are damaging to its democracy in the upcoming polls.