Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz has published an article in Foreign Affairs, one of the United States’ most influential foreign policy magazines. The article, “Bangladesh’s Quiet Slide into Autocracy” discusses how the South Asian country has transformed from an electoral democracy to an autocracy in the past decade and a half. Riaz noted that despite ostensible economic growth the political scene in Bangladesh is quite gloomy. Some of the classic markers of authoritarianism are easily discernable in Bangladesh: power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of Hasina, and the legislature is dominated by the ruling party, which has also established a firm grip over the civil administration and law enforcement agencies, Riaz writes. Two consecutive flawed elections have created the pathway of autocratization.
Riaz insists that “the government wields increasingly unchecked power, the opposition is cowed and fragmented, the judiciary is grossly compromised, and civil society has withered.” Bangladesh is expected to hold its national election in 2023. “Without reform of the current system in which the incumbent oversees the election, the ruling party will almost certainly triumph again.”
Riaz draws attention to the role of the international community: “The country’s democratic decay will not slow unless the international community plays a proactive role, making it clear to Hasina’s government that authorities must reopen democratic space in the country, scrap draconian laws, hold law enforcement agencies accountable, and once again allow citizens to participate in politics.”