Category Archives: Bangladesh
Happy New Year 2014!
Legislative elections were held in Bangladesh on January 5, 2014. 300 members of the Jatiyo Sangshad (জাতীয় সংসদ), Bangladesh’s unicameral legislature, were up for reelection. The 300 directly-elected members are elected to serve five-year terms in single-member constituencies by FPTP. An additional 50 seats reserved for women.
At the Partition of India in 1947, the predominantly Muslim eastern half of the old Bengal Province became part of the new Muslim state of Pakistan. The eastern wing of the new state, which held a majority of the country’s population, was separated from the western half by over 1,600km of Indian territory. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, and the Muslim League promoted the ‘two nations theory’ which downplayed ethnolinguistic divisions by emphasizing the political unity of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.
However, if East Pakistan was largely Muslim (with an Hindu majority), it was populated by the Bengali people who spoke Bengali. West Pakistan, particularly the Punjabis, came to become the dominant force in the new Pakistani state, even if they had only a minority of the population (but most of the economic power). Urdu – the lingua franca of Indian Muslims – was declared the sole official language and Pakistan became a centralized state with weak democratic institutions and a powerful and politicized military. The western wing of Pakistan dominated in politics, the economy, the military and the civil service; most government funding was directed towards West Pakistan at the expense of East Pakistan and the central government’s policies alienated the Bengali population of East Pakistan. Organized in 1949 under the Awami League, they demanded a confederal structure in which a weak federal government would only control defense and foreign affairs while the constituent states held considerable powers.
In 1952, Bengali students protested in Dhaka against the imposition of Urdu as Pakistan’s sole official language. The police opened fire on the crowd and a number of students were killed. The Bengali language movement, as it became known, catalysed the expression of Bengali nationalism. In 1954, the United Front – a Bengali regionalist coalition including the Awami League – won the provincial elections in East Pakistan, but the components of the United Front fought one another for control of the provincial government, undermining their efficiency. In 1956, Pakistan’s first constitution – which took nine years to write – created, on paper, a very centralized federal state (in which West Pakistan’s four provinces were merged into a single province following the One Unit scheme) and a national legislature in which each ‘wing’ held an equal number of seats (instead of rep-by-pop which would give most seats to East Pakistan). The constitution was never actually put into practice: in 1957, President Iskander Mirza (a Bengali) dismissed the Prime Minister, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy (who was from East Pakistan); in 1958, Mirza imposed martial law and suspended democratic government in the provinces; a few weeks later, Mirza himself was overthrown in a military coup and General Ayub Khan became President.
Ayub’s military regime promulgated a new constitution in 1962 which established a presidential republic and made few concessions to Bengalis. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had advocated for the east’s ‘liberation’ as early as 1956, became leader of the Awami League after Suhrawardy’s death in 1963. Mujib announced a six-point programme which demanded a confederal state, a weak central government controlling only foreign affairs and defense, rep-by-pop and universal suffrage, and provincial powers over taxation, currency, foreign exchange and power to raise a militia. Mujib was arrested in 1968. His six-point programme widened the gap between east and west and aggravated an already unstable situation which led to Ayub’s resignation and replacement by General Yahya Khan in 1969. Yahya prepared for the first nationwide democratic elections in 1970, in which East Pakistan received a majority of the legislature’s 300 seats. However, Yahya and West Pakistan’s appearance of indifference to the plight of the Bengali after a massive cyclone in November 1970 which killed 250,000 caused a great deal of animosity.
Mujib’s Awami League won the December 1970 elections, winning 160 of East Pakistan’s 162 seats but winning no seats in West Pakistan. Yahya refused to hand over power, and ordered a military crackdown on Bengali nationalism, beginning a brutal war for Bengali independence and a humanitarian crisis in which thousands and thousands of civilians were massacred. The Pakistani military and their local allies, mostly Islamists, began a campaign of terror – widely described as a genocide – in which perhaps over a million civilians were killed, raped or displaced. Bengalis also murdered many non-Bengali minorities. If the Pakistanis held back the East Pakistani rebels until December 1971, a rapid Indian military intervention soundly defeated the Pakistanis in a matter of 12 days. Pakistan surrendered on December 16, 1971.
Sheikh Mujib became President (later Prime Minister) of Bangladesh upon his return home in March 1972, after he was released from prison in Pakistan. The 1972 constitution proclaimed the principles of nationalism, socialism, secularism, and democracy; but in the following years, Mujib paid lip service to those – especially democracy. Mujib returned to a country scarred by civil war and on the verge of a massive humanitarian crisis, and his policies and style did little to improve the situation. Although Mujib pardoned some suspected war criminals and became less of a secularist, he surrounded himself with ‘freedom fighters’ from the war and shunned the old Pakistani civil servants and Bengali military officers who had not joined the ‘freedom fighters’. His nationalization Bangladeshi manufacturing and trading strangled entrepreneurship in its infancy, while enforcement of Bengali as the sole official language as a replacement for English increased the country’s isolation. In 1974, over a million people died during a famine partly caused by government policies. In 1975, Mujib amended the constitution to make himself President and establish a single-party state. Mujib, all but two members of his family and most of his staff were assassinated by junior army officers.
Following the de-facto military coup, the assassins chose Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, a conservative member of the Awami League to serve as President. The new government was recognized by Pakistan and relations with India, strong under Mujib, deteriorated. In September 1975, the new President promulgated an indemnity act which granted immunity to Mujib’s assassins. Mujib’s loyalist in the army overthrow Mostaq in a coup in November, but days later a counter-coup by a leftist but anti-Indian party overthrew the Mujib loyalists. General Ziaur Rahman, a military officer and a rival of the slain Mujib, became the second in command of the new regime as deputy chief martial law administrator – but it was not long before Zia overshadowed the figurehead president.
In April 1977, Zia officially became president and moved to restore order by banning political parties, censoring the media, imposing martial law and using the army to arrest dissident and army mutineers. On the other hand, Zia restored order and stability after an highly unstable interregnum. He preached the ‘politics of hope’, encouraging Bangladeshis to work harder and produce more; unlike Mujib he did not discriminate against those who had not fully participated in the liberation struggle. Zia’s economic policies, somewhat successful, aimed to increase grain production and integrate rural development.
Zia’s regime moved the country in a new direction, away from Mujib’s secular Bengali nationalism towards Bangladeshi nationalism, which gave emphasis to Islam and amended the constitution removing references to secularism and socialism, replacing them with references to religion and ‘absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah’. Zia lifted the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party which had opposed independence and had committed war crimes during the liberation war. Diplomatically, Zia moved away from Mujib’s close ties to India and the Soviet Union, improving relations with nations such as Pakistan, China or Saudi Arabia which had opposed the country’s independence but also with the US and Western Europe.
By 1978, Zia moved to give his regime a civilian and non-military appearance, by naming a cabinet largely made up of civilians, later rescinding the ban on political parties and promising a democratic transition to an elected legislature. Zia’s party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), won 207 out of 300 seats in the 1979 elections, against only 54 for the Awami League, which was now led by Sheikh Hasina – Mujib’s eldest daughter and one of only two family members who were not assassinated in 1975.
Zia was assassinated in May 1981 by disgruntled officers, led by Major General Abul Manzoor, who had been passed over for a promotion in Dhaka and instead handed an inferior command in Chittagong. However, Zia’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, remained loyal and Manzoor was arrested. Power transferred to Zia’s Vice President, Abdus Sattar, who was confirmed in a 1981 presidential election. But after less than a year in office, Ershad took power in a bloodless coup. Although Ershad, for the time being, gave the presidency to a non-entity, he imposed martial law, suspended the constitution and prohibited all political activity. Ershad officially became President in December 1983. Ershad cited rampant corruption and infighting in the ruling BNP as justifications for his coup; in reality, the military distrusted Sattar, a civilian, and Sattar irked them by attempting to curtail their power and hinting that their role was not to rule the country.
Ershad’s authoritarian regime summarily cracked down on dissent, but at the same time undertook some important reforms. A land reform granted rights to tenants for the first time in the country’s history, the government denationalized state-owned enterprises, the economy was liberalized granting a larger role to the private sector and foreign investment. Meanwhile, civilian opposition – divided between Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and the BNP, led by Zia’s widow Khaleda Zia – picked up steam, prompting Ershad to give his regime a more civilian tint and make cautious moves towards liberalization, rejected by both the BNP and the Awami League as martial law remained in place. Ershad, undeterred, roared ahead and got his plans ratified in a sham referendum in 1985.
Legislative elections were organized in 1986. Ershad’s relaxations of martial law (and the release of political leaders such as Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from house arrest) proved enough for the Awami League to partake in the process, although the BNP and its allies boycotted the poll. In a vote marred by extensive fraud in Ershad’s favour, Ershad’s party, the Jatiya Party, won 153 seats to the Awami League’s 76 and 10 for the Jamaat-e-Islami. Ershad proceeded to resign his army command post, join the Jatiya Party and run for president in an October 1986 presidential election which was boycotted by all opposition parties. Hasina and Khaleda Zia, among others, were placed under house arrest. A month or so later, Ershad withdrew martial law. But he soon declared a state of emergency following new opposition protests in 1987.
Ershad’s moves to consolidate his civilian-military regime’s hold on power at the local (district) level unleashed a storm which managed to unite the Awami League, the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami into a common anti-government front which led massive protests in 1987 and 1988. Violence and general strikes complicated the organization of local elections in February 1988. The opposition boycotted early legislative elections held in April 1988, resulting in Jatiya Party landslide. However, the opposition was not subdued and Ershad’s hold on power – so solid for years – quickly faltered as he lost the backing of key foreign allies and the military commanders. In December 1990, he stepped down and allowed a caretaker government to organize elections for February 1991.
Since 1991, Bangladesh has been an unstable and imperfect democracy marked by an enduring clash between Hasina’s Awami League and Khaleda Zia’s BNP, with Ershad’s Jatiya Party switching its allegiance between the two major parties. Elections are generally free and fair, although political leadership remains in the hands of a closed, affluent elite or within a single family – both major parties can be more effectively described as personalist/family machines than actual ideological parties. If there are policy differences between the parties, they mostly lie in the two parties’ historical traditions: the Awami League has tended to be secular and nominally left-wing, while the BNP has given more support to political Islam and is seen as being on the right. Despite the relative lack of policy differences, there is deep personal animosity – even hatred – between the two women at the heart of the country’s politics since 1991. There is no end in sight to the family vendetta disguised as multiparty politics. Khaleda Zia’s heir apparent is her son, Tarique Rahman, who has been accused of laundering millions during his mother’s second term (2001-2006) and now lives in exile in the UK. More recently, Hasina’s party has tried to make something out of Sajeeb Wazed, Hasina’s son
Democracy is seriously undermined by corruption, weak rule of law, limited bureaucratic transparency and political polarization breeding intermittent violence. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, placing 136th out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. There is widespread impunity with regards to corruption, and when the law is applied by the government it is done in a patchy and biased manner often aimed more at targeting political opponents. If the government allows for a relatively free press, journalists often face threats and attacks from party activists, organized crime or Islamists. Courts are politicized, inefficient and corrupt; prisons are overcrowded and conditions very poor; security forces often use excessive force with little to no legal consequence.
The extent of impunity and the close ties between politics and corrupt businessmen was shown in April 2013, with the collapse of an eight-story commercial building in the Greater Dhaka which killed, officially, 1,129 people and injured another 2,000. Although inspectors had found cracks in the building the day before, garment workers – many of them women and children – were forced to return to work the following day. The building, as it turned out, was a member of the ruling Awami League. The disaster led to widespread international criticism. The garment industry form the bulk of Bangladesh’s export, making it a lucrative sector. Wages are low, working conditions are horrible, child labour widespread, accountability limited (many factory owners are MPs) and the articulation of workers’ grievances is curtailed by limits on unionization and government harassment of labour rights organizations.
Khaleda Zia won the 1991 elections, a close race against the Awami League. On roughly the same percentage of the vote, the BNP won 140 seats to the Awami League’s 88. Ershad’s Jatiya Party won 35 seats while the Jamaat-e-Islami took 15. The opposition boycotted the February 1996 elections; the Awami League had been demanding the formation of a caretaker government to supervise the election, a demand refused by the BNP. If the BNP won the February 1996 election, political turmoil escalated to the point that it was forced to amend the constitution to allow for a caretaker government to supervise new elections in June 1996.
Hasina’s Awami League won these new elections, winning 146 seats to the BNP’s 116 and the Jatiya Party’s 32. The Jatiya Party, led from prison by Ershad, temporarily gave its support to Hasina’s government. The 2001 elections, supervised by a caretaker government, were closely fought with both the BNP and Awami League winning 40% or so of the vote, but Khaleda’s BNP returned with a large majority – 193 seats to Awami League’s 62. Ershad’s party, along with two Islamist groups (including the Jamaat-e-Islami), both sided with the BNP and won 14 and 17 seats respectively.
Khaleda’s extremely corrupt government oversaw economic growth and some mildly successful measures aimed at educating young girls and distributing food to the poor. As Khaleda stepped down in October 2006 to make way for the constitutionally-mandated caretaker government, the country fell into a political crisis which would last until 2008. The Awami League organized rioting on the eve of the handover of power, questioning the neutrality of the Chief Justice due to become head of the caretaker government. As the BNP and Awami League rejected other potential justices to lead the caretaker government, President Iajuddin Ahmed became head of the caretaker government himself and set out to organize elections for January 2007. However, the Awami League withdrew from the 2007 elections at the last minute, effectively cancelling them.
The President, with military support, declared a state of emergency but remained committed to organizing free and fair elections with a credible voters’ register and independent electoral commission. The state of emergency suspended some basic constitutional rights including the freedom of movement, assembly, and speech. The caretaker government filed corruption charges against Hasina, Khaleda and Khaleda’s two sons (both high-ups in the BNP). The government tried to push Khaleda to go into exile in Saudi Arabia but she was later arrested in September 2007; Hasina was originally banned from returning to Dhaka until May 2007, but she too was arrested in July 2007. While there’s absolutely no doubt that both women are personally corrupt, the arrests were seen – including by the international community – as politically-motivated and a move by the military-backed government to sideline the two major politicians. Both women were later released, allowing for the elections to go ahead on December 29, 2008. The BNP and Awami League’s refusal to play along with the military forced the military to admit defeat – it had failed in its goal of riding the country of its two key political leaders.
Hasina’s Awami League, in coalition with Ershad’s Jatiya Party, formed a Grand Alliance which obtained a huge majority in the Parliament: the Awami League won 49% and 230 out of 300 seats, and the Jatiya Party won another 27 seats (another 5 seats went to three small parties in the Grand Alliance). Khaleda’s Four Party Alliance, led by the BNP allied with the Jamaat-e-Islami and a dissident faction of the Jatiya Party, won only 33 seats. The BNP itself won 33% and 30 seats, the Jamaat-e-Islami was left with only two seats, down from 17 in 2001. Ershad was rumoured to become President, but he did not.
Hasina has faced a tumultuous term, still plagued by the same issues which have undermined democracy for the past two decades. Her government moved to undo two key constitutional amendments passed by Zia and Ershad’s regimes which had abandoned secularism and legitimized the 1975-1979 martial law. The country’s highest courts struck down the fifth and seventh amendments, which legitimized decrees passed under martial law during Zia and Ershad’s regimes, effectively declaring the two military regimes to be null and void. In June 2011, Parliament passed the fifteenth amendment, which restored the 1972 constitution’s original principles of secularism, democracy, Bengali nationalism and socialism all the while keeping intact the rights of faith-based parties and still defining Islam as the state religion. Some complained that Hasina abandoned the principles of secularism by keeping those two key clauses in place.
Hasina’s government has actively promoted the legacy of her father, Sheikh Mujib, creating something of a cult of personality. In January 2010, the government oversaw the execution of five participants in Mujib’s 1975 assassination; the previous year, the Supreme Court had confirmed the death penalty for five of the accused after a 13-year long trial which had been blocked, between 2001 and 2006, by Khaleda Zia’s BNP government.
As it had promised in 2008, the Awami League created a domestic tribunal to prosecute war crimes committed during the liberation war. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which is a domestic court despite its name, was formed in 2009 to prosecute suspected war criminals – albeit targeting only anti-independence East Pakistani collaborators, rather than those who had fought in the regular (West) Pakistani military. By 2012, nine members – including prominent leaders – of the Jamaat-e-Islami and two from the BNP had been indicted. The ICT was supported by most Bangladeshis as overdue justice for past crimes, but its failure to meet international standards, lack of fairness and transparency and allegations of government interference to obtain a quick verdict was criticized by international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and foreign governments. In 2012, The Economist published contents of leaked emails and Skype calls between the head judge and a Brussels-based Bangladeshi attorney, suggesting that the government was seeking a quick verdict and that the judge was being influenced by the attorney, who had no legal standing in the ICT.
In 2013, the trials and first sentences divided the country, leading to mass protests and outbreaks of violence. In February 2013, the ICT sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader known as the ‘butcher of Mirpur’, to life imprisonment on five of six counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Economist said that he had been sentenced on “flimsy evidence”, including the testimony of a girl who was 13 at the time and hiding under a bed at the time. Nevertheless, the relatively lax sentence outraged Bangladeshis, who took to the streets of Dhaka to demand the death penalty for Mollah. The Awami League backed the protests, with the Prime Minister speaking out in favour of the death penalty. Even the opposition BNP, which has traditionally defended Jamaat, didn’t want to miss out on a chance to partake in a popular protests and belatedly welcomed the protests. In September, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, sentencing Mollah to death by hanging. Mollah was hanged on December 12.
In late February, the ICT sentenced another Jamaat leader, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, to death by hanging. Jamaat activists rioted, attacking the Hindu minority, looting their properties and burning their homes and temples. Jamaat claimed that the trials were politically motivated and that it was the target of a witch-hunt by the government (which is quite possible), a claim echoed by the intransigent BNP. Violent protests and strikes organized by Jamaat with the BNP’s support led to several deaths in March. In early May, up to 50 people were by police forces breaking up a protest organized by Hefajat-e-Islam, an Islamic fundamentalist organization which demanded an anti-blasphemy law, ending the country’s pro-women development policies, banning on public mixing of the sexes and banning ‘shameless behaviour’.
In August 2013, the High Court ruled that Jamaat-e-Islami was ‘unfit’ to contest elections citing planks in the party’s charter which were unconstitutional. The election commission later cancelled Jamaat’s registration. The government welcomed the decision, which it had been unwilling to take itself, fearing a violent response and opposition from countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Relations between the government and the BNP opposition have been as horrible as ever. The BNP, intransigent as ever, accused the government of condoning murders of BNP activists, setting up a biased war crimes tribunal and intimidating BNP supporters. While the BNP’s behaviour, allowing its thugs to run wild during protests, have not helped, some of its accusations do hold up. The government has been continuing the usual family vendettas against the BNP, laying charges on Khaleda and issuing an arrest warrant for her exiled son (and heir presumptive) Tarique Rahman in 2011, abducting a BNP politician and arresting over 30 opposition figures including MPs on trumped-up arson charges. The government has been going after Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank which gives microcredits to the poor. Hasina accused Yunus of ‘sucking blood from the poor’, most believe that the government is trying to grab control of Grameen and settle scores with Yunus, who had the temerity of briefly creating his own political party in 2007. According to Human Rights Watch, over 150 people were killed between February and August 2013 and almost 300 have died in political violence in 2013.
The Awami League’s support has been slipping. In the summer of 2013, the BNP won mayoral elections in most cities, including in industrial Gazipur, said to be one of the League’s safest seats. There is nothing extremely surprising in this: no government since 1991 has won reelection in a contested election, as voters inevitably turn angry on the government and MPs who treat their constituencies as cash registers.
A point of contention between the opposition and the government has been the fifteenth amendment, which also removed the requirement for a neutral caretaker government to supervise the elections. Reversing roles from 1996, the BNP threatened the government that it would boycott the elections unless a caretaker government was appointed, the government showed no great desire to compromise. In October, the BNP-led opposition, which includes 17 other parties (it is known as the 18 Party Alliance) called a general strike (hartal). Two days before the strike, the two women talked on the phone for 36 minutes, in an attempt by Hasina to get Khaleda to call off the strike. Instead of agreeing to anything, a transcript has shown that the two women bickered and quarreled the entire time – arguing over whether or not Khaleda’s phone was dead, if a dead phone could ring, about Khaleda cutting a birthday cake and fighting over past incidents (Mujib’s assassination, a 2004 grenade attack on Hasina, the other side’s propensity for violence and murders). The strike went ahead and 13 were killed. The BNP continued its violent protests, crippling transportation and the economy. Jamaat, fighting for its very survival, resorted to murdering its opponents.
Election and results
The BNP-led 18 Party Alliance boycotted the election. This was slightly surprising, given that many believed that the BNP had been bluffing, given that it was said that the BNP was eager to contest the election and that it was confident of victory. Khaleda Zia was placed under house arrest on December 29. Even Ershad’s Jatiya Party, which had remained in cabinet until now, pulled out of the election in early December. The government had promised Ershad’s party 60 seats as a reward for taking part in the sham election, but when he opted to withdraw, Ershad was led away from his home by security forces. Ershad, currently detained in an hospital, might now be exiled. Ershad has threatened to commit suicide if the government ‘plays tricks’ with him.
Turnout was apparently 22%, although the New York Times cited an official number of 39.8%. 154 out of 300 seats were not contested, so about 52% of voters could not cast a ballot.
Awami League winning 231 seats (104 elected, 127 acclaimed)
Jatiya Party winning 33 seats (13 elected, 20 acclaimed)
Workers’ Party winning 6 seats (4 elected, 2 acclaimed)
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal winning 5 seats (2 elected, 3 acclaimed)
JP-Manju winning 1 seat (1 acclaimed)
Bangladesh Nationalist Front winning 1 seat (1 elected)
Bangladesh Tarikat Federation winning 1 seat (1 elected)
Independents winning 14 seats (14 elected)
Repoll ordered in 8 seats
In an election marred by protests and violence right up to election day, the governing Awami League ‘won’, handily retaining its two-thirds majority in the Parliament in which the main opposition party, the BNP, will have no seats. 22-24 people were killed on election day, and seven people died the next day, making it the most violent election in Bangladesh’s history. The police further exacerbated tensions by continuing to arrest opposition leaders.
This election, naturally, does not solve anything. While the government claims that it won legitimately, and that the opposition made a mistake in choosing not participate, the opposition has decried the election as a farce. BNP leader Khaleda Zia claims that she is ready to discuss, but only after the government releases the BNP’s senior leaders from jail. The government has stated that it will only negotiate once the violence ends (‘terrorist activities’), saying that the opposition is doing nothing but killing innocents. Hasina said that democracy was now “tainted by the blood of innocent people and soaked by the tears of burned people” and said that she had ordered the army to “curb any post-poll terrorism and violence with iron hands.”
The United States, United Kingdom and Canada have voiced concerns over the polls. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said that the “the results of the just-concluded elections do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people” and encouraged the government and opposition to engage in dialogue so as to hold new credible elections as soon as possible. Washington said it wants the government “to provide political space to all citizens to freely express their political views” and the opposition to “use such space peacefully and responsibly.” The UK’s Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi said it was ‘disappointing’ that over half of voters could not express their will at the ballot box and ‘deplored’ violence and intimidation. Canadian foreign minister John Baird reiterated comments made by the US, UK and the EU, urging all parties to reach an agreement to allow ‘truly participatory’ new elections. India, which has been on very good ties with Hasina’s government, ran a different note. In a statement, India said that the elections were a ‘constitutional requirement’ and part of the ‘internal and constitutional process’. It condemned the violence but did not voice any concerns about the electoral process or the election’s outcome.
The situation bears similarities to the first 1996 election, which the opposition Awami League boycotted after Khaleda’s BNP government refused to set-up a caretaker government to run the elections. Turnout was only 21%, political turmoil escalated and the parties agreed to holding credible elections in June 1996 which were won by the Awami League. The US ambassador in Dhaka has said he is hopeful that the parties will be able to reach a similar agreement to hold new elections, like in 1996. This election isn’t the end of this story; far from it, it’s only the beginning to a saga whose resolution is still open-ended.
Don’t miss the first parts of my Guide to the 2014 South African election!
Bangladesh 2008, Update 1
Final results for the 299 seats which held a vote on December 29 are now out. Voting in Noakhali-1 constituency, where voting was delayed due to the death of a candidate, will be held on January 12.
Awami League 230 (+168)
Jatiya Party (Ershad) 27 (+16)
JSD-National Socialist Party 3 (+2)
Workers Party 2 (+1)
Liberal Democratic 1 (+1)
Grand Alliance 263 (+188)
BNP 29 (-164)
Jamaat-e-Islami 2 (-15)
Bangladesh Jatiya Party 1 (-4)
Four-Party Alliance 32 (-183)
Indies 4 (-2)
By region, the AL won16 out of 21 Barisal seats, 32/57 Chittagong seats, 87/94 Dhaka seats, 48/72 Rajshani seats, 30/36 Khulna seats, and 17/19 Sylhet seats. The BNP won no seats in Dhaka or Sylhet. A bit overhalf of the 27 Jatiya MPs come from Rajshani. An attempt at a general map will be posted when some popular vote results is available by district.
Bangladesh 2008: 98% of seats
Elections to the National Assembly (Jatiyo Sangshad) were held yesterday in Bangladesh. These were the first elections since 2001 and are the likely end to the recent political crisis in the country. Turnout was 80%, the highest in Bengali history. The Electoral Commish has results for 295/300 seats. Four are unknown, and voting in one constituency was postponed due to the death of a candidate. The opposition Awami League, a nominally socialist party, but whose real ideology is corruption, won a landslide mainly because it was not the government. Bangladesh is generally anti-incumbent. The 2001-2007 government led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP, not as bad as the British BNP but comes close), a conservative-nationalist but also corrupt party, took a thumping. The Awami League is generally secular and more multi-ethnic, promoting Bengali identity. The BNP is generally very conservative and Islamist, promoting more of a Muslim identity. The election was generally clean, and a lot of dead voters were purged and photo ID cards were required to prevent fraud.
Awami League 228 (+166)
Jatiya Party (Ershad) 27 (+16)
JSD-National Socialist Party 3 (+2)
Workers Party 2 (+1)
Liberal Democratic 1 (+1)
Grand Alliance 261 (+186)
BNP 27 (-166)
Jamaat-e-Islami 2 (-15)
Bangladesh Jatiya Party 1 (-4)
Four-Party Alliance 30 (-185)
Indies 4 (-2)
The Islamists also took a thumping, partly because it was affiliated with the BNP, and partly because it has lost popularity. For those wondering, the JSD is not a Nazi party, despite the name, but a socialist party.
AL leader and ex-PM Sheikh Hasina, daughter of former dictator Mujibur Rahman, will become Prime Minister. Hasina was formerly jailed for corruption, as was the leader of the BNP, Khaleda Zia, widow of another dictator. Both were released to run in the election. Ironically, the Awami League campaigned on the popular slogan of change and led an anti-corruption campaign aimed at the incumbents, the BNP (the BNP government from 2001 to 2007 was incompetent, even by the low standards for Bengali governments).
More when the PV data is released and when we have final results.