Lessons from the Bangladesh polls

Lessons from the Bangladesh polls by Ahmed Bilal Mehboob
The News, February 02, 2009

Bangladesh has just concluded one of the most peaceful, orderly and fair elections for its national parliament, Jatiya Sangsad, with a record 87 percent voter turnout. This was made possible mainly because Bangladesh made impressive strides in electoral reforms during the past two years. The Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) became a truly independent body as a result of these intensive electoral reforms undertaken by the caretaker government, in close collaboration with a new chief election commissioner. He is not only reform-minded, dynamic and an experienced administrator but he also has an impeccable reputation of integrity.

The extensive electoral reforms were the result of a comprehensive dialogue between the BEC and the political parties. Sixteen political parties were involved in three rounds of dialogue before the reforms were introduced.

A dialogue between the Election Commission and political parties is a rarity in Pakistan. Last time the Election Commission consulted political parties was for a couple of hours, and that too at the direction of the Supreme Court.

As the time to take the critical decision of appointing a new chief election commissioner in Pakistan draws nearer (the current one will complete his three-year term in March), Pakistan’s political leadership may learn a few lessons from Bangladesh—the country’s former eastern wing.

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