Public opinion surveys place Awami League ahead
The public opinion surveys by the Independent-RDC of March 2017, the International Republican Institute (IRI) from April 2017, and Democracy International (DI) from 2016 all show that approval ratings of AL and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are substantially higher than that of BNP and Khaleda Zia, and most people in Bangladesh are optimistic about direction in which the country is moving.
In the Independent-RDC polls of March 2017, 72.3 per cent respondents expressed good opinion about Sheikh Hasina running the country while only 26.6 per cent held a good opinion about Khaleda Zia. The same polls showed that 56.9 per cent respondents had a good opinion about AL, compared to 18.5 per cent for BNP. When asked whom they would vote for if elections were held on that day 36.1 per cent said they would vote for AL while 3.5 per cent expressed preference for BNP.
In the poll by DI in 2016, 70 per cent respondents said the country was moving in the right direction. This marked a 12 per cent rise from DI’s earlier poll conducted in the previous year. When asked whom they would vote for if elections were held on that day, 38 per cent said they would vote for AL compared to 5 per cent for BNP.
The IRI poll April 2017 shows that 75 per cent hold the view that the country is moving in the right direction. The same poll showed that the public hold a high approval rating for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with 83 per cent, which shows a steady progression from 77 per cent and 80 per cent revealed in IRI’s earlier polls from November 2015 and February 2017.
Analysis by media and experts reveal that dominant factors for AL’s win include party unity at the local level and strong organizational backing. This may be coupled with the party’s emphasis on development and popularity of Sheikh Hasina and AL over Khaleda Zia and BNP.
In the series of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) conducted by IRI and released in April 2018 some interesting points emerge which merit consideration. According to report on the FGDs, most participants expressed a positive view of AL and its leader Sheikh Hasina strongly associating her and her party with the country’s liberation struggle and current development.
The FGDs suggest that the AL government is in a strong political position entering the 2018 election cycle because of its development achievements and popularity of its leader Sheikh Hasina. Most participants expressed negative views about Khaleda Zia, BNP and its ally Jamaat because of their association with ‘corruption, violence, intransigence and religious extremism’.
The FGDs showed a rejection of Tarique Rahman by most participants because of his ‘corruption and nepotism’.
Conviction of Khaleda Zia for corruption and Tarique Rahman’s assumption of responsibilities as BNP’s Acting Chairman are likely to have further intensified public’s negative perceptions about BNP and its leaders.
One more factor merits consideration in this context. People of Bangladesh believe that continuity of the government would be of paramount importance for socio-economic progress and stability of the country. In the past Bangladesh has seen breaks and even abandonment of infrastructural and developmental projects with BNP assuming charge of the government.