Political situation Democratic structures under strain

In 1971, Bangladesh separated from Pakistan. Following a period of political unrest marked by autocratic regimes and a number of coups, the country managed the transition back to a parliamentary democracy in 1991.

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Parliamentary building in Dhaka, Bangladesh

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). The political climate in Bangladesh is marked by the highly 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 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. In practice, however, these fundamental rights - and, as a consequence, civil society's scope for action - are increasingly being restricted. Non-governmental organisations and nature conservation groups are experiencing repressive action by state authorities more and more often. The 2020 World Press Freedom Index (External link) compiled by the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders ranks Bangladesh 151st 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 2,000 people – among them bloggers, journalists, homosexuals and avowed atheists – have been killed in Bangladesh in acts of political violence.


Corruption and nepotism are widespread in Bangladesh. On the Corruption Perceptions Index (External link) published by Transparency International, Bangladesh is ranked 146th 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

Since 2017, several hundred thousand people belonging to the minority Rohingyas have fled from neighbouring Myanmar to Bangladesh. The number of Rohingya refugees there has risen to more than 870,000 (as at January 2021). 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.

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.