The report also forecasts Awami League will win majority of seats
The political environment in Bangladesh will remain tense in the run-up to the 11th general election due to the risk of opposition protests and the threat of terrorist attacks, London-based Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted.
Although the ruling Awami League is expected to win a majority of seats in the parliamentary polls scheduled for December 30, the party's remaining tenure and its next one will be marked by ongoing risks, EIU predicted in its outlook for 2019-2023.
The EIU report on Bangladesh, published on December 4, considers terrorist attacks during the election run-up as the most immediate and demanding of ongoing risks.
“Although the security forces have been successful in thwarting recent attempts, any increase in the incidence of terrorism could contribute to broader political instability, fuelling dissatisfaction with the government and prompting widespread social unrest," the report said.
It adds: “Militant organizations are likely to target important landmarks or major cities as the elections approach, to instigate panic and undermine the government’s control over national security."
Based on its risk briefing product, the unit said risk scenarios are potential developments that might substantially change the business operating environment over the next two years.
Attacks on foreigners rose and exchange-rate volatility increased sharply with high impacts in Bangladesh in the third quarter of 2018, the report reveals.
As per EIU forecast, major risks include opposition protests spiraling out-of-control, increased deficiencies in the legal system and a large refugee population leading to an increase in Islamist extremism, in the same quarter.
In addition to those risks, political stability will be threatened by large-scale protests by the opposition, particularly by out-of-parliament opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
BNP chief Khaleda Zia has been disqualified from contesting the December election because of two convictions.
“We do not expect either of these convictions to be overturned," the EIU report said. "Although BNP has agreed to participate in the election as part of a larger political alliance known as the JatiyaOikya Front, its members and supporters will continue to stage demonstrations demanding the release of their leader."
There is a risk of these protests turning violent, and security forces may be deployed to maintain order.
The ongoing Awami League-BNP rivalry will ensure that the political environment remains tense even after the polls.
The report also adds that social unrest and protests by various interest groups, including the recent protests for ensuring road safety, will remain a common feature of the political landscape in Bangladesh in 2019-23, causing frequent protests and demonstrations that will keep political risk high.
“The government's harsh response to recent student protests over road safety has reduced Awami League support among younger voters," the report said."In addition, recent arrests of opposition leaders may play on voter sympathy in favour of BNP."
The report, however, projected that ruling Awami League would return to power with a majority of parliamentary seats in the upcoming election.
Terror organizations may recruit Rohingyas
The Rohingya refugee crisis, which began in August 2017, will remain severe during the next few years in Bangladesh.
“We do not expect the refugees’ planned repatriation to be completed in our forecast period. The scheme will be hindered by Myanmar’s stringent verification process for re-entry, and the refugees’ unwillingness to return there as security measures to protect the community remain poor,” said the intelligence unit.
As the crisis drags on, there is a risk that terrorist organizations in Bangladesh may seek to recruit refugees, who are enduring sub-standard conditions in their camps. This will raise security concerns for the country and its neighbours, it said.
“Bangladesh’s relations with Myanmar will remain tense in the medium term. The Rohingya refugee crisis will remain severe, at least in the early part of our forecast period, and will persist at an elevated but more stable level thereafter,” it added.