Global support lets Bangladesh PM withstand election worries

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Congratulatory messages are flowing to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Hasina, ensuring she will withstand the reverberating calls to investigate serious allegations of widespread irregularities in last Sunday’s election that was dominated by her coalition.

Hasina is set to form her third consecutive government and fourth overall, and on Thursday the figurehead President M Abdul Hamid invited her to form the Cabinet.

The new Members of Parliament took their oaths on Thursday, though seven opposition members boycotted. The new Cabinet will take their oaths on Monday.

The international reaction to allegations of irregularities was not clear initially, but the scenario quickly settled after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the way and China followed, congratulating Hasina for the massive victory with her Awami League party-led alliance winning 288 seats in the 300-seat Parliament. The opposition-led alliance had only seven seats.

Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bhutan and Pakistan congratulated Hasina, while the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) said they wanted to continue to cooperate with the government.

An analyst said the United Nations (UN) “would be happy” to see Hasina at the helm.

After coming to power in 2008 with a landslide victory, Hasina cautiously started building strategic partnerships with India, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. She followed that trend again when she return to power in 2014.

Bangladesh joined a 34-nation military coalition to fight terrorism under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and is building its first nuclear power plant with Russia and India. Hasina bought two submarines from China for the first time and invited Japan to invest in infrastructure development, especially in power plants.

Bangladesh also became a member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is a potential rival to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The EU is a big export market, especially for Bangladesh’s garment products. Bangladesh traditionally buys its regular arms for its defense from China.

The country earns about USD30 billion a year from exports of its cheap garment products, mainly to the US and the EU countries, being the world’s second-largest garment producer after China.

China is Bangladesh’s largest import source too while India is the second largest import source.

“So we import from them and then we export to Western markets,” M Humayun Kabir, a former Bangladeshi ambassador to Washington and an analyst in international affairs, told The Associated Press in an interview.

And European nations and the US are also home to large Bangladeshi diaspora communities. “These are people living in those countries becoming or contributing to those societies. So, this … is how we are connected to the Western countries,” he said.

The US expressed concern about the “credible reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence” but said it wanted continue to work with Bangladesh.

“The US remains deeply invested in the future of Bangladesh and its democratic development. The US is Bangladesh’s largest foreign investor, largest single-country market for Bangladeshi exports, and home to a large community of Americans of Bangladeshi origin,” the US said in a statement after last Sunday’s election.