Bangladesh Elections 2018

Bangladesh will hold its 11th parliamentary elections on December 30, a vote that many say will be a litmus test for democracy in the South Asian nation.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose tenure has seen widespread allegations of rights abuses and creeping authoritarianism, is seeking a third consecutive term in office.

Hasina’s chief rival is two-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who heads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), but she is barred from contesting the elections because of a corruption conviction.


The BNP is banking on the newly formed opposition alliance, Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front), which is being led by a secular icon and former foreign minister Kamal Hossain.


Concerns over free and fair voting

The 2014 elections were boycotted by the BNP as unfair and shunned by international observers as “an electoral farce”. More than half the seats had remained uncontested, giving the ruling Awami League (AL) a walkover.

As they head to the elections without Zia, BNP leaders have accused the government of using state power to intimidate its leaders by filing cases against them.

Violence is common around elections in Bangladesh. At least six people have been killed in poll-related violence so far.

New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the international community to press the Bangladeshi government to create conditions for a free and fair election.

Infographic: Bangladesh at a glance

Infographic: How the Bangladesh elections work

Infographic: Major parties and alliances

Bangladesh since 1971

1971:

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is arrested following an election win for the Awami League, which West Pakistan refuses to recognise, leading to riots.
On March 26, AL declares East Pakistan's independence from West Pakistan and names the new country Bangladesh

1972:

Mujib returns from detention in Pakistan and becomes PM

1975:

Mujib assassinated in a military coup, martial law imposed

1979:

Martial law lifted, General Ziaur Rahman’s BNP wins

1981:

Zia assassinated in an aborted military coup

1982:

General Ershad takes power in a military coup, the constitution is suspended

1986:

Ershad elected for 5-year-term in general elections

1987:

State of emergency declared after opposition protests

1990:

Ershad steps down, is jailed for corruption later

1991:

Khaleda Zia becomes PM, the constitution is changed to make president’s post ceremonial

1996:

Awami League returns to power with Hasina as PM

2001:

Hasina becomes first PM to complete 5-year term, loses polls to BNP’s Zia

2004:

Parliament amends the constitution to reserve 45 seats for women, Hasina survives grenade attack at an opposition rally that kills 22

2007:

January election is suspended by President following violence, Hasina is charged with murder while Zia is put under house arrest

2008:

Awami League captures more than 250 of 300 seats in parliament in the December elections

2009:

Hasina takes over as PM in January

2012:

Key leaders of top Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, charged with war crimes for collaboration with Pakistan in 1971

2013:

Dhaka High Court bans Jamaat-e-Islami from participating in elections

2014:

BNP boycotts parliamentary election, Hasina returns for a third term in office

2017:

A massive Rohingya exodus from Myanmar begins in August, UN says a million given shelter in Bangladesh

2018:

Zia sentenced to ten years in jail, banned from contesting the election