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Opposition movement not a mass protest: Kugelman

Published : 15 Jan 2023 10:30 PM

Despite various challenges and hurdles, the ruling Awami League has been capable of retaining a “significant level of support” and there is still a lot for the government of Bangladesh to point to as a success story, said a Washington DC- based organisation named South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

“We have to keep in mind that the ruling Awami League has been in power since 2009 and it retains a significant level of support,” said Michael Kugelman, Director of the newly created South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

He also noted that the party has been able to bring success stories on the economic front and in countering terrorism.

Kugelman said 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, a journalist, recently sat down with Kugelman to discuss the recent protests in Bangladesh. The Foreign Policy magazine published the podcast recently.

Replying 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 costs and responses from the government like rationing electricity amid power shortage.

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

Kugelman has mentioned that the protest launched by the opposition parties “was not a mass protest” but a partisan protest.

He 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 in the past.

He said the Awami League government took initiatives to crack down 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, the BNP, when it was in power, was resorting to similar types of tactics and there were crackdowns as well as reports of enforced disappearances.

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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