Researching the politics of development
The 2018 Bangladeshi election
Working paper 132
Between 1990 and 2009, the violent competition characteristic of Bangladeshi politics was tempered during elections through a system of caretaker government, which managed successfully to adjudicate between parties in a neutral manner. Since the system was repealed in 2011 however, elections have more closely resembled those seen previously under military rule. This paper examines the most recent election, the controversial 2018 landslide victory for the Awami League. Based on a multi-site analysis, we examine how the victory was achieved, reviewing the candidate nomination process, campaigns and election day itself. The ruling party’s success lies in efficient party management, with factionalism kept in check, an appealing vision of a developed and ‘digital’ Bangladesh and, most fundamentally, widespread coercion of political opposition using the apparatus of the state. The election articulates two key characteristics of contemporary Bangladeshi politics: state coercion and developmentalist ambitions.