Given that Bangladesh contains roughly a hundred times more people than Gaza, it seems odd that there’s so little discussion (at least where I’m looking) of the recent election there.
From what little research I’ve done, the story so far is:
Two parties, the Awami League and the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party, have traded power for decades. Both are led by a womyn (Sheikh Hasina for the AL, Khaleda Zia for the BNP) who is the daughter or wife of a previous prime minister.
Bangladesh was at some point ranked as the most corrupt country in the world. The way things work is that at the end of each governmental term, the governmental hands over power to a ‘caretaker government’ who will then oversee and organise the next election, and who are meant to be neutral.
In 2001, the BNP convincingly won an election. In 2006, when Khaleda Zia’s term ended, she tried to appoint a caretaker who was perceived to be biased towards her BNP.
Everybody went out onto the streets to protest and fight each other. The army suspended the government and took temporary power, then held these new elections which have just finished. In these elections, the AL won very convincingly, and the BNP claims the elections were rigged but international observers seem to say they weren’t.
So I’m sitting here wondering:
1) What is the difference between the two parties? Apparently the BNP has a history of promoting education, esp. female education, which is cool. And the Awami league seems to be historically more connected to the separation from Pakistan, and friendlier towards India. It also seems to ally itself with ‘leftist’ parties and seek more support from the poor. The BNP on the other hand seems more conservative, more keen on Islam (which I think would make it more hostile to India, maybe?) and has formed alliances with an Islamist death-squad party who formed to terrorise Bangladeshis during the separation from Pakistan.
Based on those observations it seems like AL is preferable, but how significantly, I don’t know.
2) Why did people vote so heavily for the AL in 2008 – if they indeed did – and so heavily for the BNP in 2001 – if they indeed did? To put it another way – what are the ‘key issues’ that people are caring about – or do people just want an end to corruption and instability?
Any readers with a better knowledge of South Asian politics than me, contributions are welcome.
EDIT: the Economist has a few more details, informing me that the Islamist rivals of the BNP ended up with only 2 seats, and that an issue on many voters’ minds was food prices, which they want the AL to keep low for them.