The election, which saw the world’s longest-serving female prime minister boycotted by the main opposition parties, is likely to extend her rule.
A cricket legend and former prime minister languishing in prison, and a former fugitive trying to make a comeback under the watchful eye of a powerful military.
The populist leader hopes to enter his second decade in power promoting popular but religiously divisive politics.
And the island nation is recovering from its worst economic crisis in decades after protesters stormed the presidential palace.
Four South Asian countries are set to go to the polls next year in what will be a grand test of democracy, with some 2 billion people in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka voting from January to September.
All former colonies that gained independence from Britain within the past century are at different stages of growth and face different crises and opportunities.
Here’s what you need to know about Democracy’s Biggest Show.
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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the ruling Awami League’s election rally in Sylhet, December 20, 2023. The main opposition parties are boycotting the election.
Bangladesh, a country of about 170 million people, will vote for the first time on January 7.
The once multi-party democracy has been disrupted as the ruling Awami League continues what rights groups say is a campaign to silence dissent, pushing the republic closer to a one-party state. , threatened.
Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister and Awami Party leader, is likely to be re-elected as the country’s leader for a fourth consecutive term.
Hasina has been in power since 2009 and won the last election in December 2019 in opinion polls marred by deadly violence and accusations of public fraud.
Missing at the time was her biggest opponent, Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister and leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who was jailed on corruption charges the previous year.
For the past three decades, Bangladeshi politics has been defined by a bitter rivalry between two women who saw their politician fathers and husbands each assassinated while in office. Political turmoil continued into the second generation.
Zia, 78, is currently living under house arrest, and her BNP continues to face increasing challenges from her government’s mass arrests of Hasina and her politicians.
The situation led to protests and the BNP again decided to boycott the elections, once again paving the way for Hasina.
Julia Breckner, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a November statement that while the government claims to be committed to free and fair elections with its diplomatic partners, state authorities are simultaneously using prisons as part of the ruling Awami League party. It’s filled with political opponents.”
“Free elections are impossible when governments suppress freedom of expression and systematically disable opposition parties, critics and activists through arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, harassment and intimidation,” Breckner said. added.
But the country, which aims to become a middle-income country by 2031, is entering an era of economic growth. Much of that comes from garment manufacturing, which accounts for 35.1% of Bangladesh’s annual gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Bangladesh has always had political instability since its founding, but it has been able to maintain a very good growth rate,” says Professor of International Affairs at OP Jindal Global University and “Bangladesh’s New Journey”. – says Sreerada Dutta, author of “Transport.” Beyond regional identity. ”
He added that the country is building strong relationships with its key neighbors in the region.
“So whoever the leader is, the same development model will be adopted…because Bangladesh aspires to become much bigger than it is now.”
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses supporters at a rally in Lahore on October 29, 2022. He is currently in prison.
Pakistan, ruled by political dynasties and military organizations for most of its 76 years, has never had a democratically elected leader complete a five-year term since gaining independence.
In recent years, the country of 230 million people has combined the familiar combination of political instability and armed attacks with a particularly severe economic crisis that has brutally hit both middle- and low-income households. It is permeating in parallel.
Imran Khan, the former prime minister and perhaps the most popular figure, is languishing in prison, charged with fraud and charged with leaking state secrets, and is facing a public opinion scandal scheduled for February. I am no longer able to participate in the survey.
Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year, has maintained that the charges against him were politically motivated and designed to prevent him from running for office. Authorities deny the allegations.
Television stations have been banned from broadcasting Khan’s speeches, and many of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party colleagues have been arrested.
In October, fugitive former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to the South Asian country after nearly four years in self-imposed exile, evading arrest and disrupting Pakistan’s already turbulent political scene. People made him believe that he was aiming for the realization of Pakistan. Back to the top seat.
Meanwhile, the country faces mounting challenges, from economic uncertainty and frequent armed attacks to climate change that puts millions of people at risk, and a new leader It is the stage for a difficult road to recovery for many.
“Political and economic uncertainty go hand in hand,” says Fahad Humayun, assistant professor of political science and Neubauer faculty fellow in the Department of Political Science at Tufts University.
“And governments that come to power through dubious elections are not only likely to have weaker bases and rely on the military for their political survival, they are also less likely to attract much-needed capital inflows. Sho.”
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, Sunday, December 3, 2023.
India, often referred to as the world’s biggest experiment in democracy, will be heading to the polls in the spring for a major election that is likely to ensure Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins an unusual third term in power. It is expected that he will go.
The populist leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tightened its grip on India’s democratic institutions since the 1970s, when Indira Gandhi ruled the country with an iron fist and pushed for dictatorship.
But on the world stage, India is perhaps more important than ever.
Mr. Modi, whose calendar this year includes diplomatic visits to Australia and the United States, has pitched himself as a statesman who will solidify his country as a modern superpower. And he made 2023 a remarkable year for his 1.4 billion people in India.
This year marked the moment when it overtook China to become the world’s most populous country, and the previous year it overtook its former colonial power, Britain, to become the world’s fifth largest economy.
In August, India made history by soft-landing a rover on the moon, becoming the fourth country in the world to achieve such a feat. A few weeks later, they launched the first spacecraft dedicated to studying the sun.
India hosted the Group of 20 (G20) in September, giving New Delhi an opportunity to project leadership beyond its borders amid mounting political turmoil.
But since his first election nearly a decade ago, critics have also said that the once secular and democratic founding spirit of the world’s largest democracy is crumbling at an alarming rate, with a minority of The sect feels persecuted under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s majoritarian policies and says any criticism of the government faces censorship and censorship. severe punishment.
Mr. Modi is facing a newly formed coalition of 26 political parties known as India, including the country’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress.
But the latest indicators of voter sentiment show the Congress party lost three out of four local votes in December’s key state elections, giving a boost to Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
As elections approach, analysts say Indian politics remains unpredictable and much can change in the coming months as political parties gear up for campaigning.
“People are hoping that they can challenge Mr. Modi and bring the opposition together. That dream, which seemed possible three months ago, now seems even more difficult,” said Asia Society Policy Research Institute senior fellow. C. Raja Mohan said in a recent talk with the Asia Society.
“But in politics, even six months is a long time.”
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Demonstrators shout slogans and wave the Sri Lankan flag during an anti-government protest inside the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister in Colombo, July 13, 2022.
Almost two years ago, Sri Lanka’s then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country after angry protesters stormed his residence, accusing him of sparking the country’s worst economic crisis in 73 years. It was done.
It was a protest movement that thrust the bankrupt nation of 22 million into the world’s spotlight after soaring inflation and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, leaving millions without access to food, fuel and medicine. It was a remarkable moment for him.
Mr. Rajapaksa resigned, paving the way for current president Ranil Wickremesinghe to take office.
Wickremesinghe’s election comes months after he helped secure a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund and overhauled the budget to ensure fiscal growth. He is likely to run for a second term.
Sri Lanka has not held a general election since 2018, with Mr Wickremesinghe repeatedly postponing the vote due to the economic crisis.
As the economy and the people recover, no election date has yet been announced, and it remains to be seen whether 2024 will be the year the people decide on their future leaders.