A Brand-New Game in Town: Bangladesh 2024

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would conduct its next general election in January 2024. This means six-month campaigns in all 300 parliamentary seats.

Given the country’s size, a large-scale general election involves extensive organization, campaigning, and resource mobilization. Dhaka residents have not seen any election signs. Bangladeshi media seldom forecasts 2024 election results.

Sheikh Hasina and Khalida Zia alternated as prime minister from 1991 to 2006. Acting President Shahbuddin Ahmed managed the 1991 election non-partisanly. In 1996, Zia’s BNP accepted the Awami League’s 13th constitutional amendment. The Jatiya Sangsad and Cabinet must be dissolved 90 days before a general election and a neutral caretaker administration appointed.

Hasina became prime minister for the first time with JP support after the BNP lost the June 1996 Bangladeshi general election to the Awami League. Zia became prime minister again in 2001 when the BNP defeated the Awami League.

Bangladesh’s political past explains the general election’s low turnout.

BNP aimed to enhance Bangladesh’s caretaker system. It raised the Bangladeshi top justice’s retirement age from 65 to 67 to allow former Chief Justice K.M. Hassan to serve as interim chief advisor instead of Mudassir Husain. Since Hassan declined as caretaker chief adviser, then-President Iajuddin Ahmed nominated himself as state and government.

The constitutional question, worsening peace and order, and Awami League boycott prevented President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed’s caretaker administration from holding the 2007 general election. Ahmed resigned as primary adviser while president.

Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed and Army Chief General Moeen Ahmed took over Ahmed’s caretaker government. Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed’s January 11, 2007 coup made the 1-11 government renowned.

Awami League handily won the 2008 Bangladesh general election under the 1-11 administration. Bangladesh’s last fair election was overseen by a neutral caretaker government.

The Awami League’s supermajority in the Jatiya Sangsad and the Bangladeshi electorate’s strong anti-incumbency ratified the contentious 15th amendment to Bangladesh’s constitution, which repealed the 13th amendment’s caretaker regime. Since June 1996, Bangladesh had no impartial non-partisan caretaker administration for the 2014 general election.

Bangladeshi elections are impossible without a caretaker administration, hence the BNP boycotted. The BNP expected the 2014 election would be invalidated or the Awami League to call new elections under the caretaker rule. The BNP changed the constitution and called for a Caretaker vote after the Awami League and its allies boycotted the February 1996 general election.

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