January 27, 2023, 9:22 pm


Special Correspondent

Published:
2023-01-15 20:16:52 BdST

AL retains significant level of support because of success stories: South Asia policy analyst Michael Kugelman


The Awami League retains a “significant level of support” and there is still a lot for the government in Bangladesh to point to as a success story amid current challenges, says Michael Kugelman, director of the newly created South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

“We have to keep in mind that the ruling party Awami League has been in power since 2009 and it retains a significant level of support,” he said, noting that the party has been able to bring success stories on the economic front and in countering terrorism.

Kugelman said that even if someone talks about all the bad things happening in Bangladesh, the bottom line is that there is still a lot for the government in Bangladesh which helps it sustain a significant level of success and there are people who see reasons to support it.

Mark Goldberg recently sat down with Kugelman to discuss the recent protests in Bangladesh. The Foreign Policy magazine published the podcast recently.

Responding to a question, Kugelman said Bangladesh has been a regional success story for its economic growth. “It's a global success story.”

He described what had happened over the last few months, including consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war, high level of inflation, rising fuel cost and responses from the government like rationing electricity amid power shortages.

Kugelman said disruption in electricity supply was a major strain on the economy and sudden fall in economic productivity was an opportunity for the opposition to take to the street.

Corruption, one of the realities in Bangladesh, scandals in the financial sector could be another trigger for the opposition, he said, adding that economic problems and corruption gave the opposition opportunity to draw more attention.

Kugelman, however, said the protests launched by the opposition parties “was not a mass protest” but a partisan protest.

The foreign affairs expert said the government had the opportunity to explain the “temporary consequences” of external factors.

Kugelman said Bangladesh has demonstrated success in the area of counterterrorism and noted that there was a period when it was a significant problem in the country which had experienced series of deadly attacks.

He said the Awami League government took initiatives to crackdown really hard on the militants, and terrorism has not been a problem in Bangladesh over the last few years. “That’s another success story.”

Bangladesh has become a much bigger player on the global stage, including its role in peacekeeping operations and with its non-aligned and balanced foreign policy, he observed.

Responding to a question on “democratic backsliding” he said it is important to look back at the broader history of Bangladesh.

In the past, he said, BNP (when it was in power) was resorting to similar types of tactics and there were crackdowns as well as reports of enforced disappearances.

Kugelman said many things that are happening today were also happening when BNP was in power.

He said “undemocratic tactics” happen in many countries, including Bangladesh and elsewhere in South Asia, and described them as “hybrid democracy”.

Responding to another question, he said he does not think that there will be a Sri Lanka-like situation in Bangladesh as there are safety measures in the latter.

Kugelman said Bangladesh's economy is much more resilient than Sri Lanka’s has been. 

He also responded to questions on Bangladesh’s next national election which he hoped will be held as per the constitution. 

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