Bangladesh elections

Update: This win seems too big to be credible. But I don’t really know…. Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins 3rd Term Amid Deadly Violence on Election Day

End Update
Bangladeshis Must Choose ‘Lesser of Two Evils’ in Election:

Per capita income has increased by nearly 150 percent, while the share of the population living in extreme poverty has shrunk to about 9 percent from 19 percent, according to the World Bank.

Electricity generation has also increased drastically under Mrs. Hasina’s rule, helping to boost factory production and spreading out to homes in rural areas. The rates of maternal mortality and illiteracy have also declined.

Sultana Kamal, a Bangladeshi activist who was once close to Mrs. Hasina but has become increasingly wary of her, said a win by the current government would be seen as an indifference by voters to rights concerns.

From what I know most of my family generally supports the Awami League. My parents do, and I have an uncle who is an activist in that party. As an atheist I sympathize more with parties less keen on allying with Muslims who are excited to kill atheists. But….the Awami League seems to have gotten quite a big head, and Sheikh Hasina is becoming Bangladesh’s Indira.

If it’s the choice between economic growth and human rights, I think voters would choose the former. But I suspect that many will bet that economic growth is due to endogenous forces which are not controlled by the government, and will switch parties to rebalance the political system.

30 thoughts on “Bangladesh elections”

  1. || many will bet that economic growth is due to endogenous forces which are not controlled by the government ||

    Well, this is simply true; I’m not sure to what extent the teeming masses fully appreciate it. Even by Bangladeshi standards I think Hasina has rocked the boat quite a bit. Truth is though she has kept much of the industrial elite happy, and that counts for a lot. Add in a bit of the inevitable election rigging, and that’s a heavy offense to be carrying.

    Personally I do think we need more [political] third-party involvement. This bloodbath between the two factions hasn’t exactly set the stage for amicable future relations. Once the two booris pop their respective socks, do we really want to see a continuation?

    Here’s hoping turnout is so high it sets the stage for a JOF proper challenge. I’m authoritarian to some degree when it comes to these crazy mullah f–ks however you cannot just use the excuse to purge all your opponents. Bangladesh simply needs a steady hand to grow rapidly economically and socially; what it doesn’t need is someone permanently poisoning the political environment.

        1. He means West Bengal and India’s Northeast.

          Pakistan is way at the other end of the subcontinent as basic geography will tell you.

          1. West Bengal is far socio economically richer than Bangladesh. Pakistan is far poorer than Bangladesh.

            Why wouldn’t large numbers of Pakistania move to Bangladesh to take advantage of business and employment opportunities?

            Many tens of millions of Indians would love to buy second homes and retire in Bangladesh if not for the islamists challenge. India would also love to move tens of millions of outsourced jobs to Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap skilled labor.

            Indian tourism could transform Bangladesh.

            So would integration with the rest of Asia.

            Inshallah this will soon happen.

          2. “Pakistan is far poorer than Bangladesh”

            The gap between Bangladesh and Pakistan per-capita is less than the gap between Germany and the UK, or Sweden and Denmark. I don’t think you would say the UK is “far poorer” than Germany, or that Danes would flock to Sweden for better employment.

  2. Bangladesh has done rather well in the last two decades and it looks like 21st century belongs to Bangla enterprise.

    Of course, as any promising economy it needs to be watchful as well. Extremism should be contained and people need to completely focus on development.

    That’s the basic mantra

  3. Bangladesh’s rapid growth makes me belive more strongly in the hypothesis that population density is conducive to economic growth. The roi on government spending is probably greater in Bangladesh than in India or Pakistan simply due to density. It feels like it should be true.

    1. I personally like that idea but it also implies a tougher job moving each and every person out of poverty and keeping them employed

    2. || Bangladesh’s rapid growth makes me belive more strongly in the hypothesis that population density is conducive to economic growth ||

      LOL. How quickly things change, even in a short time period like a decade. I remember when Bangladesh’s insufferable population density was used as an object lesson for all as to the perils of overpopulation.

      1. Overpopulation is a misnomer; it is simply organisation. Democracy leads to disorganisation (as I see it in South Asia); Dubai, Singapore and Chinese are undemocratic but extremely orderly..

      2. Maybe when your main economic mode of production is agriculture, population density is bad as it takes up land that could have been used for more farms. But that in an increasingly manufacturing oriented economy density allows for deeper division of labor, and cheaper per capita service delivery for the government. So density is bad under one mode, and good in the other.

        1. || But that in an increasingly manufacturing oriented economy density allows for deeper division of labor ||

          Provided you have the skills.

          || and cheaper per capita service delivery for the government ||

          Again, provided you have the skills and/or governance structure. I don’t think it’s an immediate lock as people are now suggesting.

          I mean if we look at the most densely populated metros across the planet, from Mumbai to Karachi to Dhaka, they are universally s–tholes. Whereas some of the relatively sparsely populated cities, like Vienna, Auckland, Sydney and Amsterdam, they rank amongst the most liveable cities in the world. How did these places get so rich?

          People often point to Singapore [and HK] when pointing out population density and it’s effects on development. But relative to other cities, how densely populated were these places before they became “rich”? In other words, did the wealth cause increased density [i.e. via attracting immigration], or did they get rich simply by having a higher population density in the first place, which caused knock-on effects for economic development?

          I think we have to be careful about such issues concerning development. Providing the population is educated and skilled, deep population density can be a boon in some respects. If the authorities/institutions/culture fails to equip the population with these, get ready for a lot of trouble.

          My wild guess though is that it is much more difficult to manage infrastructure when you have a lot of people crowded into a particular area. Only the East Asians thus far [Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai] are seen to produce relatively first class infrastructure when population density is extremely high [by European standards]. I think it’s no coincidence [and certainly related to the fact] that they manage to educate their workforces better and faster than do other Asian countries.

          1. Interesting analysis Butul Miah.

            Would you add Bangkok, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur to the list of cities that manage density well? I would. I would also add the posh parts of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and other cities (albeit there are non posh parts as well.)

            My own view is that density is positively correlated to gentrification. And gentrification is what is de facto being referenced via “density” in the above conversation?

            Should developing countries seek to gentrify large parts of their country or not?

            Personally I prefer more geographically homogeneous development using the ability of AI and telecommunications to spread the workforce geographically. Both “WITHIN” countries and internationally.

            There is econometric data suggesting that geographically spreading affluence (to avoid too much diversity in gentrification) might be correlated with certain types of violent crime. Personally, I am not sure why this correlation is necessarily causation (but this is a different conversation).

        2. A basic economic output model might be:

          Income = Y = F(aL, K), where L = labor and K = capital or tools and A = technology or total factor productivity.

          dF(aL,K)/dL is positive = marginal product of labor. This generally tracks real wages over time.

          dF(aL,K)/dK is positive = marginal product of capital. This generally tracks real risk adjusted returns on capital investment or savings over time.

          K = ∑ [(savings rate)*Y]^(1+real interest rate)^t
          K is the sum of all savings from the past with compound interest. Need to find a better online math function editor. The above function is incomplete.

          The largest driver of real living standards (Y/population) is A or product development and process innovation.

          There is reason to believe that increased population and increased population connectivity and increased security/stability increase A.

          For this reason I would argue that increasing global the global population is likely to increase global A and increase global living standards.

          Ow, what do you think increases A by more? Bangladeshi population growth (local population growth) or global population growth. In an integrated globalized economy does it matter where in the world product development and process innovation takes place?


          Butul Miah, my best estimate would be that steady state global A or global Y would increase by more than 50% if global Jihadi Islamism would disappear. Bangladeshi A would likely more than double.

          India is currently in security lockdown. Every train station, airport and many bus stops have massive security. Ditto with most malls, business complexes, major temples (Buddhist/Hindu/Jain/Bon), Gurudwaras, churches and mosques. Many Indian Sufi and Shiite leaders have extensive government provided security.

          If Jihadi terrorism disappeared, so would all of this security infrastructure. The cost of plane travel, rail travel, bus travel, taxis would plummet. The cost of transporting cargo per ton mile would plummet. Travel and trade would dramatically increase. This would lead to a massive increase in global product development and process innovation; leading to a large increase in global income.

          Plus Indian police and intelligence agencies would be able to refocus from Jihadi Islamism to organized crime and ordinary crime leading to further large economic benefits.

  4. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the target audience, but we’ve got a lot of info above on recent economic growth, and not much on why the opposition should be expected to be better for rights.

    1. Also a few measures that are interesting; median and mode (in addition to mean) GDP per capita
      Also household income (mean, mode & median)..

      Gives a far clearer economic picture – the best growth is urban growth. South Asia has to pursue an urban-based economic growth strategy (while protecting farmers of course)

      1. India has great regional economic variation because of strong state and local autonomy (a very good thing). Bangladesh has far less economic variation and local autonomy.

        Because of this Bangladesh can make faster progress on absolute poverty. Bangladesh has made a lot of progress. However Bangladesh still has a fraction of India’s per capita real GDP or median real income.

        Bangladesh is an Indian/American military protectorate and receives massive economic aid from the rest of the world as she should.

        Bangladesh’s biggest economic challenge remains Jihadi Islamism. If not for that, Indian tourism, Indians who want to retire in Bangladesh and Indian investors and bus dev partners would economically transform Bangladesh. Not to mention China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Asia.

        How much freedom of art and thought is there in Bangladesh?


        As an aside West Bengal is economically improving at a neck whiplash generating pace.

        1. || Bangladesh has far less economic variation ||

          Although improving, economic industrialization is heavily concentrated in two major areas: Dhaka & Chittagong. Yes, in overall terms it is less varied than India… however I would say this has something more to do with the fact that India is ~25 times BD’s size by geographic territory, along with the increase in population diversity that brings.

          ||Bangladesh is an Indian/American military protectorate ||

          Are you sure you understand what the term “protectorate” actually means? Bangladesh is neither with respect to either aforementioned countries, and by some is being seen in hostile terms by those in India.

          || If not for that, Indian tourism, Indians who want to retire in Bangladesh and Indian investors and bus dev partners would economically transform Bangladesh. ||

          Bangladesh isn’t some tiny island country in the middle of the Pacific, pal. It’s a nation of 160M+. If it continues to grow economically, it will become important globally with or without India’s “help”. No-one denies having great relationship with India would be preferred; but BD has hardly been on great terms with India in the past — realistically it hasn’t really affected economic growth one way or the other [indeed, cross-border economic collaboration in South Asia is a tiny fraction of what it is in East Asia].

          || Bangladesh’s biggest economic challenge remains Jihadi Islamism. |

          You must be joking. Jihadism has a negligible effect economically. It’s extremely small in proportion to the overall population and completely uninfluential. The issue is with the overall cultural environment in the country – you don’t want it effecting future growth or cultural contributions etc. Bear in mind I’m a hard-case when it comes to Jihadi or religious institutions in general [of the Hindu/Muslim/Buddhist/Christian etc. variety].

          While I call for continued crackdowns on Jihadi/militant Islamist groups, I would agree with most knowledgeable commenters that it is not remotely the biggest deal in Bangladesh right now [especially wrt governance and political systems].

          1. “realistically it hasn’t really affected economic growth one way or the other [indeed, cross-border economic collaboration in South Asia is a tiny fraction of what it is in East Asia].”

            This is why there are huge low hanging economic benefits from Indian Bangladeshi people to people and economic integration.

            Just imagine Bengalis in Wall Street, Private Equity, Venture Capital, Corporate executive suites, consulting companies and start ups (in the US, Canada, Bombay, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Kolkata, Dubai, London, Australia, New Zealand) poring capital, business development, cross border product development into Bangladesh.

            The Chinese have used their own global ethnic Chinese diaspora to extraordinary affect. It is time Bangladesh do the same with her own successful and influential global diaspora.

            Of course Bangladesh should also further economically and on a people to people basis further integrate into China and the rest of Asia too. Bangladesh should do all of the above.


            If not for massive international assistance (not just from the US and India but also from China, Russia, Europe, Turkey and other countries) a Jihadi Islamist caliphate would rule much of the world today. Even with this massive international help several hundred thousand brave muslim soldiers have died fighting Jihadis in recent years. Over 65,000 of them from the Afghan National Army and Afghan Police.

            Algeria with her excellent army and intelligence services would also have fallen. So would Nigeria and most of the African continent.

            Bangladeshi security forces and intelligence agencies were trained and set up by India, the US and the rest of the international community. And continue to receive considerable assistance from the international community. My hope is that China plays a large role in training and assisting the Bangladeshi security forces going forward.

            This is as it should be. No matter the price Bangladesh cannot be allowed to fall to Jihadi Islamists. Jihadi Islamist cannot be allowed to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Bengalis.

          2. (Anan is a parody account, like Jaggu. Don’t sweat it.)

            The amazing thing about the RMG sector in bdesh, which I recently learned, was that it was developed with virtually no FDI. Just indigenous capitalists bootstrapping growth by reinvesting forex from exports until they built a $30 bn industry. It’s remarkable.

            The next trick has to be to move up the value chain, as bdeshi wages rise and the low end of fast fashion moves to Ethiopia, etc. (illegal Indian etc immigrant women can fill any gap for a while, but it is a stopgap). There are some signs larger factories are upskilling already. The cautionary tale is the collapse of the RMG sector in nepal.

    1. Saurav, how could she win such a massive majority? Was there rigging?

      Why do you think India backs Hasina? [Not disagreeing. Trying to understand your analysis.]


      What is the capital intensity of RMG? It isn’t unusual for low capital intensity industries to grow without significant CAPEX.

      What puzzles me is why aren’t Bangladeshis exporters dominating India and Chinese RMG despite lower labor costs and very talented inexpensive labor? My suspicion is part of the reason has to do with the additional business “tax” of Jihadi Islamism. But that can’t be the whole story. Are India and China allowing free importation of Bangladeshi goods and services? Asia needs to allow free importation without tariffs for all Bangladeshi exports and free Bangladeshi access to FDI and cross border product development.

      A human being is potentially wiser and more powerful than we can imagine. Humans can do almost anything with few inputs. Bangladeshi economic achievements are no surprise.

      Bangladesh with their amazing Bengali brains can lead global tech. Inshallah this will happen.

  5. Hello Brown Pundits. I came here after seeing a few international op-eds complaining, in a highly unconvincing way, about the ruling party’s landslide win in the recent elections. Specifically, Deutsche Welle’s Zahidul Haque opines that this was “Bangladesh’s missed chance to become a functioning democracy”. Apparently Haque’s complaint is that incumbents always win in Bangladeshi elections, so this would only have been true democracy if the opposition had won. And the other was an unsigned article by Agence France-Presse – carried by the Saudi “Arab News” site – in which Ataur Rahman, the chair of a political think tank in Dhaka, asserted that Bangladesh now has a “one-party system”, and an unnamed western diplomat likens the country to Cambodia, where Hun Sen has been in charge for more than thirty years. At the sites that I usually visit, the only people who were clearly happy were the Indian hawks at SAAG.

    It sounds like Rahman is right about the ruling party having become very dominant, both formally and informally; but like many a westerner who has recently discovered a wistful liking for populism and strong nationalist rule, that sounds like it could be good for the country. My knowledge of Bangladeshi politics is scant, all I know is General Ershad ran things in the 1980s, and then two women took turns in the presidency for decades; but it looks like we’ve reached a situation where of those two major parties, one is now identified as the party of economic growth, and the other has completely lost its way.

    I suppose one thing I would like to understand, is any political subtext in the discontent coming from European media. I am now used to western media always looking for the worst it can say about Russia, Trump, Brexit, and European populists, and I interpret this as part of the political struggle going on in the core of the erstwhile empire of global liberalism. Then there are countries like China and Saudi Arabia, which have also been shoehorned into the liberal narrative of “democracy in danger”, and where the western deep state is deeply engaged for strategic reasons. But then there’s disapproval of strong rule in farflung places like Brazil, the Philippines, and now Bangladesh. I can’t tell if the criticism here is mostly ideological and automatic, or if there are non-ideological geopolitical interests at work as well.

    Another thing I would like to know is whether Bangladesh is now decisively outside the western sphere of influence. Could it be that the major external influences on the country’s political process are, say, China, India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia? – for example. In which case the western media op-eds are mostly irrelevant. (Though it just occurred to me, that if the new geopolitics is going to be strategic rivalry between China and America, then Bangladesh is probably on the frontline between China’s Belt and Road, and America’s Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral, and this might be the new meaning of rhetoric about Bangladesh’s alleged shortcomings as a democracy.)

    1. Mitchell Porter, Hasina was widely expected to win a free and fair election. [Partly because of rapid economic growth.] But the extent of the landslide has me stumped. How could she win that big a majority in a free election? This said I don’t know for sure. This merely merits further research. Do other readers have any thoughts?

      How do you define “Western”? What would you define India, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand to be?

      There is a perception that the entire global media, global academia, global institutions, and much of global culture is controlled by cultural marxists/post modernists (outside of former communist countries such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, which are more resistant to post modernism). Therefore their influence on electoral politics is limited. If anything their opposition probably helps a political campaign across most of Asia, the Arab world, Latin America, North America and Europe.

      I use to really like SAAG during B Raman’s time and was deeply saddened by his untimely passage. Learned a great deal from B Raman and interacted with him.

      Do you interact with any of SAAG’s current article contributors Mitchell?

      I like the way you think. Please stick around and keep sharing your perspectives. Are there other topics that interest you?

      To everyone . . . why does India and Modi like Hasina so much? Why does West Bengal (which is not BJP/RSS/Hinduttva) like Hasina so much? I don’t fully understand why.

      Razib, do you think India and Hinduttva like Hasina this much because they ally with her against Islamists? Who in Bangladesh is most committed and competent at resisting Islamism?

      1. The negative commentary continues at Asia Times (“plunge into autocratic rule”) and The Hindu (someone from IDSA says “at least 20-30 seats, if not 60-70 [for opposition parties], would have been better for democracy”). I found M.K. Bhadrakumar to be the most informative… I think the situation bears some comparison to Brazil, where you also have a former president in jail, and violence as an election issue. Anyway, I choose to view this landslide victory positively.

        AnAn, after considerable reflection, I will say that for me, the West primarily means western Europe and its American offshoot. There is a kind of globalized modernity that the Asian countries you list, and even China and Russia, share with Europe and America, but I don’t know if you can call it “western civilization”. I think that the actual western civilization conquered the world and occupied and divided the other civilizations. The Soviet period was an alternative modernity which helped to break up the western empires, but after it passed, we ended up in a computerized new world order with an American hyperpower presiding over a world of nations but not civilizations. I suppose I feel that, even if American power disperses throughout the global system, and even if those civilizational traditions are revived, it will only be as “cultures” and “identities” within an increasingly posthuman transglobal reality, rather than as the sovereign terrestrial lifeworlds they used to be.

        I have no connection to anyone at SAAG, but I too used to read B. Raman with great interest.

  6. I think it is incredibly stupid of Sheikh Hasina to fraudulently influence the elections. She would have won in a fair contest hands down. If she really rigged the election, it was completely unnecessary. It just needlessly undermined her own legitimacy.

    I worry about Bangladesh’s stability. Bangladeshis are volatile people, and they have a history of political violence. Right from the bloody assassination of Sheikh Mujib and massacre of his family to the various military coups, violence always seems to be lurking ominously behind the curtains. If she loses legitimacy in the eyes of the people, it might give military and Islamists an excuse to siege power thru violent means. This can in turn complete undo recent economic gains made by the country.

    Really, a risky move.

Comments are closed.

Brown Pundits