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The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has now decided to participate in the 30 December elections, despite being unable to achieve its longstanding preconditions for doing so: the release of the BNP’s leader, Khaleda Zia, from prison so that she can stand as a candidate; and the establishment of a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the elections.

Some argue that the BNP’s decision to take part this time means that the 2018 elections will be more credible than many observers originally expected. But the ‘playing field’ remains far from level.

It has been argued that the EU’s decision not to send a full-blown observer mission shows that there is considerable international scepticism about the elections. The Commonwealth has not yet said whether it will send an observer mission.

Most pundits are still expecting a victory for the incumbents, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League, but the result could be closer than previously anticipated.

Meanwhile, efforts earlier this month by the Bangladeshi and Burmese authorities to begin the repatriation to Burma of nearly one million Muslim Rohingya refugees stalled due to UN and Western pressure.

Bangladesh has reiterated that it will not support forced returns. Another attempt to begin repatriation is now not expected until next year.

For further background, see also these Library briefings:

Bangladesh: October 2017 update.

Burma: November 2018 update

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