Political situation Democratic structures under strain

In 1971, Bangladesh became independent of Pakistan, from which it is geographically separated by India. Following a period of political unrest marked by autocratic regimes and a number of coups, the country managed the transition to a parliamentary democracy in 1991. The country's electoral system of “first-past-the-post” voting has led to the emergence of two large party groupings: the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The political climate in Bangladesh is marked by the confrontational style of politics of these two parties, who have so far shown no willingness to reach political compromises.

In the parliamentary elections held in December 2018, the Awami League won a majority of 96 per cent of the vote. The opposition voiced severe criticism of the way the elections had been held, accusing the government of rigging votes and menacing critics. There were violent clashes, in which at least 17 people were killed. Ahead of the elections, opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia of the BNP was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to more than ten years in prison.


Human rights

The freedoms of assembly, of association, of opinion and of the press are all guaranteed in the constitution of Bangladesh. However, these freedoms are now subject to restrictions that are difficult to interpret legally and have severely lessened the scope for critical civil society.

Non-governmental organisations and nature conservation groups are experiencing repressive action by state authorities more and more often. The 2021 World Press Freedom Index (External link) compiled by the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders ranks Bangladesh 152nd out of 180 countries evaluated. This is because, for example, Bangladesh has passed a law on information and communication technologies according to which it is punishable to express criticism of the government or of Islam in social networks.

It is estimated that, since 2009, more than 2,200 people – among them bloggers, journalists, homosexuals and avowed atheists – have been killed in Bangladesh in acts of political violence.

Corruption

Corruption and nepotism are widespread in Bangladesh. On the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (External link) published by Transparency International, Bangladesh is ranked 147th out of the 180 countries rated. The country's anti-corruption agency has neither sufficient staff nor financial resources, nor the political backing it needs, in order to be able to operate effectively.

The situation of the Rohingya people

Aerial photograph of the refugee camp Kutupalong in Bangladesh, where Rohingya who were expelled from Myanmar live.

Aerial photograph of the refugee camp Kutupalong in Bangladesh, where Rohingya who were expelled from Myanmar live.

Aerial photograph of the refugee camp Kutupalong in Bangladesh, where Rohingya who were expelled from Myanmar live.

Since 2017, several hundred thousand people belonging to the Muslim minority Rohingya have fled from neighbouring Myanmar to Bangladesh. Since the 1990s, the number of Rohingya refugees there has risen and is now roughly one million (as at January 2022). Meeting the basic needs of the refugees is placing an enormous strain on Bangladesh in political and cultural terms, on its ability to provide financial and humanitarian assistance, and on its infrastructure.

Most Rohingya live in basic camps near the border in the district of Cox's Bazar. By January 2022, some 20,000 Rohingya had been resettled to Bhasan Char Island; all in all, some 100,000 people are to be resettled to improve the situation in the crowded camps of Cox’s Bazar. In March 2021, a fire destroyed large parts of the camp, 15 people lost their lives, some 500 were injured and 45,000 lost their homes.

Negotiations regarding the repatriation of the Rohingya people have so far been unsuccessful. According to the United Nations, there is currently still no prospect of the refugees being able to return safely to Myanmar, if they so wish. The Bangladesh government is calling on the international community to exert greater pressure on Myanmar, to make more of an effort to bring about a solution to the crisis and to provide greater support for the communities hosting the refugees.