Problem of National Election 2014
Bangladesh could face a protracted political crisis in the Lead-up to the 2013 elections unless Prime Minister SheikhHasina’s government changes course and take a more conciliatory approach towards the political opposition and the military. In December 2008, following two years of a military-backed caretaker government, the Awami League (AL) secured a landslide victory in what were widely acknowledged to be the fairest elections in the country’s history. The hope, both at home and abroad, was that Sheikh Hasina would use her mandate to revitalize democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation, ending the pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics between her AL and its rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Three and a half years on, hope has been replaced by deep disillusion-meant, as two familiar threats to Bangladesh’s democracy have returned: the prospect of election-related violence and the risks stemming from an unstable and hostile military. Instead of changing the old pattern of politics, the AL gov- ernment has systematically used parliament, the executive and the courts to reinforce it, including by filing corruption cases against Khaleda Zia, the BNP chairperson, and employing security agencies to curb opposition activities. Most worrying, however, is the AL-dominated parliament’s adoption of the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, which scraps a provision mandating the formation of a neutral caretaker administration to oversee general elections. The caretaker system was a major practical and psycho-Logical barrier to election-rigging by the party in power. Removing it has undermined opposition parties’ confidence in the electoral system. If the AL does not reverse course and accept such a caretaker, the chances of an opposition boycott of the 2013 elections are high and with it a return to the de-pressingly familiar pattern of zero-sum political competition between the AL and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) that led to violence in the streets and military inter-venation in 2007.
Sheikh Hasina has not fulfilled her campaign pledge to run a corruption-free administration.53 numerous high- profile corruption cases have damaged confidence in the government. The most damning emerged in April 2012 when Railways Minister Suranjit Sengupta was retained in the cabinet after a scandal involving bribes worth Tk 70 lakh ($90,000 – the equivalent of nearly seven years of ministerial wages).54 ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahmansays the commission has been turned into a “toothless tiger” by requiring it to obtain the government’s permission before investigating officials. This increases the possibility that corruption suspects might be able to keep subordinates from giving evidence or otherwise cooperating with the investigation.55 AL leaders have continued the practice of exploiting loopholes in the judicial process with the help of the National Committee on Withdrawal of Politically-Motivated Cases, which has recommended the dismissal of 315 corruption cases against senior party
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasi-na’s government has been marked by the usual poor governance indicators: high levels of corruption, a partisan judiciary and bureaucracy and worsening human rights violations. Sheikh Hasina has used her mandate to restrict democratic space, prevent constitutional change and stack state organs with party sympathizers. She has also alienated the military. It is no surprise that the public has now slowly turned against the government or that the BNP has regained much of its strength. In a major show of force on 12 March 2012,100,000 people attended a BNP rally in Dhaka, even though the government virtually cut nationwide transport links to prevent supporters from joining. But more violent political confrontations loom if no accommodation between the two parties is reached. The military is also showing signs of frustration. It is not clear how serious the...
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