A recent poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) on political perceptions and preferences showed a surprisingly varied picture, according to a report by the US Institute of Peace on 9 August 2023.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “Despite the fact that a growing number of citizens think the country is heading in the wrong direction, especially concerning economic development, 70% of respondents to the IRI poll claimed to be satisfied with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, citing major infrastructure projects being delivered. While the opposition has been gaining increased support, the majority of respondents nevertheless disapproved of its plan to boycott elections if no caretaker government can be set up before the election date in January 2024. However, the mood in society is perhaps best mirrored by a respondent from Khulna who was quoted as saying: ‘If you say something about a political issue - if I say something - I have a fear that I may be murdered for this.’ While this could be dismissed as merely one individual’s impression - and it has to be emphasized that people in Bangladesh generally enjoy freedom of speech - it shows that polarization and self-censorship are growing. A similar fear can also be seen among the religious minorities in the country, especially as such statements can be easily perceived (or distorted) as dishonoring Islam.”