1986 Bangladeshi general election

General elections were held in Bangladesh on 7 May 1986. A total of 1,527 candidates contested the election.[1] The result was a victory for the Jatiya Party, which won 153 of the 300 seats. Voter turnout was 61.1%.[2] Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the winner of the previous elections, boycotted the election.

1986 Bangladeshi general election

← 1979 7 May 1986 1988 →

All 300 seats in the Jatiya Sangsad
151 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout61.1% Increase 9.8 pp
  First party Second party
  Hussain Muhammad Ershad.jpg Sheikh Hasina - 2009.jpg
Leader H. M. Ershad Sheikh Hasina
Party JP(E) Awami League
Leader since 1986 1981
Leader's seat Did not run Dhaka-10
Last election New 54 seats
Seats won 153 76
Seat change Increase153 Increase37
Popular vote 12,079,259 7,462,157
Percentage 42.3% 26.2%

President before election

H M Ershad

Subsequent President

H M Ershad

British observers including a journalist termed the elections a "tragedy for democracy" and a "cynically frustrated exercise".[3]


In 1982 a coup d'état led by Army Chief Hussain Muhammad Ershad overthrew democratically elected President Abdus Sattar, suspended the Constitution and imposed martial law. Parliament was dissolved and all political parties were banned. Ershad appointed Justice A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury as President on 27 March 1982, a position which he held until December 1983 when Ershad assumed the presidency himself.[4] In 1983 Ershad promised to hold presidential elections in May 1984 and to restore parliamentary government the following year.[4] However, neither elections were held until 1986.

Amid increasing opposition from the general public, Ershad aimed to legitimise his regime by holding a referendum in March 1985.[5] The official result of the referendum was overwhelmingly in support of his regime; however, there were allegations of large-scale vote rigging.[5][6]

Ershad planned to hold a presidential election in early 1986, but was faced with vigorous opposition from the Bangladesh Awami League-led eight-party alliance, Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed seven-party alliance and the left-leaning five-party alliance, who demanded the lifting of martial law and the holding of parliamentary elections prior to a presidential election.[6] Conceding to opposition demands general elections were scheduled for 7 May 1986.

On 1 January 1986 Ershad formed Jatiya Party to represent his interests in the elections. The winners of the previous elections, BNP, boycotted the elections but Awami League, and the majority of other political parties, contested. At the time of elections, martial law was still in place and Ershad was still Army Chief.


The result was a victory for Ershad's Jatiya Party, which won a simple parliamentary majority with 153 of 300 seats.[2] However the result was controversial, with Awami League accusing the Jatiya Party of election rigging and a British team of observers - consisting of a former Labour Party minister, a Conservative Party lawmaker and a BBC journalist - terming the elections a "tragedy for democracy" and a "cynically frustrated exercise".[6]

Party Votes % Seats +/–
Jatiya Party 12,079,259 42.3 153 New
Bangladesh Awami League 7,462,157 26.2 76 +37
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 1,314,057 4.6 10 New
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rab) 725,303 2.5 4 New
Bangladesh Muslim League 412,765 1.4 4 +4
National Awami Party 369,824 1.3 5 +5
Communist Party of Bangladesh 259,728 0.9 5 +5
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj) 248,705 0.9 3 New
National Awami Party (Muzaffar) 202,520 0.7 2 +1
Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League 191,107 0.7 3 New
Workers Party of Bangladesh 151,828 0.5 3 New
Bangladesh Jayita League 490,372 1.7 0 0
Bangladesh Hindu Oikkya Front
Bangladesh Islamic Andolan
Bangladesh Islamic Republican Party
Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan
Bangladesh Nagarik Sanghati
Gana Azadi League
Islami Jukta Front
Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Dal
Jana Dal
Jatiya Janata Party (Odud)
Jatiya Janata Party (Sujat)
Jamaaiatay Olamaya Islam
Jamaaiatay Olamaya Islam-Nezam-e-Islami Party
Pragotishil Jatiyatabadi Dal
Young Muslim Society
Independents 4,619,025 16.3 32 +16
Invalid/blank votes 377,209
Total 28,903,859 100 300 0
Registered voters/turnout 47,305,886 61.1
Source: Nohlen et al.


In August 1986 Ershad resigned from military service and a presidential election was held in October 1986, in which Ershad was declared the victor. However the elections were controversial as they were boycotted by all major opposition candidates and there were reports of irregularities.[7]

In November 1986, the second session of the third parliament was used for passing the constitution's seventh amendment bill, which primarily protected Ershad and his regime from prosecution for actions taken under his years of military rule, and on 11 November martial law was lifted.[8]

In July 1987, the opposition parties united in opposition of government policies. Ershad declared a state of emergency in November, dissolved parliament in December, and scheduled new parliamentary elections for March 1988.[6]


  1. ^ Bangladesh Inter-Parliamentary Union
  2. ^ a b Dieter Nohlen; Florian Grotz; Christof Hartmann (2001). Elections in Asia: A data handbook. Volume I. p. 536. ISBN 0-19-924958-X. |volume= has extra text (help)
  3. ^ Liton, Shakhawat (28 August 2010). "Ershad's desperate bids go in vain". The Daily Star.
  4. ^ a b "Bangladesh Leader in Military Regime Assumes Presidency". The New York Times. 12 December 1983.
  5. ^ a b "Bangladesh holds referendum on military rule". UPI. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  6. ^ a b c d "Ershad's desperate bids go in vain". The Daily Star. 28 August 2010. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  7. ^ "Bangladesh Chief Claims Vote Victory". The New York Times. 17 October 1986.
  8. ^ "Martial Law Ends in Bangladesh". The Washington Post. 11 November 1986. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-12-29.