Challenges and priorities after Sheikh Hasina’s fourth term victory

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Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

In a surprising turn of events, the Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, secured a landslide victory in Bangladesh’s parliamentary elections on January 7, winning 222 out of 300 seats.

The election marked the first time in the country’s history that independent candidates, mostly deprived of the ruling party’s nomination, won 62 seats. Remarkably, the ultra-Islamist Jatiya Party, the former main opposition, fared poorly, managing only 11 seats. Interestingly, an appeal from the Jatiya Party for support led the Awami League to withdraw candidates from 26 seats, aiming for Jatiya Party to secure a stronger oppositional role. However, this move was utterly rejected by the electorate due to various reasons, including the party’s double standards and ultra-Islamist ideology under GM Quader, who lacks political acumen.

The unexpected success of independent candidates and the decline of the Jatiya Party as the main opposition present a challenge for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. According to the Bangladesh Constitution, Jatiya Party is ineligible to become the main opposition as it failed to secure 10 percent of the total number of seats won by Awami League. The absence of a legitimate opposition in the parliament may lead to international criticism and allegations of a “one-party rule” in Bangladesh.

In such case, despite saving Bangladesh from potential Islamist influences, Sheikh Hasina now faces the critical task of establishing a genuine opposition in the 12th parliament. This arises from the limitations faced by the 62 independent members, most of whom have affiliations with the ruling Awami League and are reluctant to align with other opposition groups. Finding a legitimate opposition within constitutional bounds becomes crucial, especially as Jatiya Party is ineligible due to its failure to secure 10 percent of Awami League’s 222 seats.

As Sheikh Hasina gears up to form the new cabinet, the first 90 days of her term may involve addressing key priorities: launching anti-corruption and anti-terrorism initiatives, stabilizing essential commodity prices, focusing on economic recovery, and effectively countering adverse international propaganda. Notably, political adversaries such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, have been actively lobbying and influencing international narratives against Sheikh Hasina’s government, influencing policymakers and media globally. Despite their boycott of the election, BNP engaged in destructive activities aiming to destabilize Bangladesh, a plot thwarted by the election outcome. However, they continue their efforts through substantial lobbying efforts abroad.

Counteracting these efforts and portraying a positive international image will be a priority for Sheikh Hasina, especially amidst ongoing negative campaigns and lobbying against her government. It’s crucial to negate these narratives for the greater interest of Bangladesh.

Priorities for Sheikh Hasina’s first 90-days of fourth term

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to launch robust campaigns against corruption and terrorism to maintain internal stability and strengthen governance. This initiative will address concerns raised by international critics. At the same time, addressing economic issues, particularly controlling the prices of essential commodities, will alleviate public concerns and contribute to social stability. This step is crucial for the well-being of the citizens.

Prioritizing economic recovery measures will also be essential to overcome the challenges posed by the global economic downturn and internal issues. Sheikh Hasina’s government needs to implement policies that foster growth and development. While addressing these key issues, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina taking measures to effectively counter negative propaganda in international media and social platforms is crucial as establishing a strong communication strategy to showcase the positive aspects of Bangladesh’s governance will be vital in maintaining the country’s image globally. At the same time, the role of lobbying and PR agencies in Washington, London, and other Western capitals by political rivals, such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami, needs to be addressed. Sheikh Hasina’s government must counteract the influence of foreign actors attempting to tarnish Bangladesh’s image on the international stage.

It is important to note, for the last five years, while BNP and its political and ideological allies have continued cruel and vile propaganda targeting Bangladesh, ruling Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, there was visibly no counter measures from the government or ruling party. As a result, serious misconceptions have been generated in the international arena. But now onwards, for the next five years, it will be essential to address this issue with due diligence, as continuation of vile propaganda and disinformation may lead to unexpected consequences.

As for the sake of the continuation of progress, prosperity and peace of Bangladesh, there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina, each and every member of the next government should sincerely deliver their responsibility with optimum output.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib

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