Friday, January 12, 2007

So who's running Bangladesh?

Bangladesh is on-record as being one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. According to Transparency International it's ranked 156th out of 163 on the global corruption scale, surpassed only by collapsed warzones like Haiti and Iraq.

This does not go unnoticed in Bangladesh of course, and over the years there have been attempts to cut down on the corruption. As elections were among the country's most corrupt exercises, in 1991 a reform was introduced to make Bangladeshi elections freer and fairer. To insure that the incumbent party would not commit electoral fraud and abuse the tools of government to keep themselves in power, it was decided that during the months leading up to a national election there would be no incumbent party at all. The Prime Minister would resign, and be replaced by an interim, non-partisan caretaker figure, who would in turn ensure that the government would be run in a completely neutral and peaceful manner during the election, and thus in a way that did not favor the ambitions of any one party over another. He would turn over power only when the certified winner of the election was sworn in.

But, sigh, now the main Bangladeshi opposition party is arguing that the incumbent party has managed to corrupt this process too, by stacking the caretaker regime with individuals loyal to themselves. Elections are supposed to be held in the next couple of weeks, but the opposition has already vowed to boycott the vote.

So the scramble has been on to appoint new, more neutral caretakers to run the government. Ones who can hopefully stop outraged partisans from rioting in the streets, which has evidently been happening a lot lately. A state of emergency was declared the other day.


The outgoing Prime Minister of Bangladesh stepped down in October. Under normal circumstances, the new caretaker is supposed to be chosen by bi-partisan consensus, but in this case the two parties could not agree. So the President of Bangladesh stepped in and made himself interim prime minister, but this did not go over well. Shockingly, the President is himself a politician, and one who the opposition argued was too closely aligned to the incumbents.

Heeding the cries, the prez. resigned as caretaker prime minister yesterday. The youngest retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court then became acting prime minister automatically, in accordance with the constitution. But he is apparently an old geezer who didn't want the job, so he resigned a few hours later (making him a new candidate for this page).

There was a hope that the perhaps the new prime minister could be someone really cool and heroic, who everyone would love. The president tried to talk the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, the famed Bangladeshi "banker to the poor," into taking the job, but he was wise enough to refuse.

So instead the President appointed the country's second-most beloved economist, a guy named Fakhruddin Ahmed (seen here). He's the former governor of the national bank, and is described by the Agence France-Presse as a "Princeton-educated former World Bank employee." For now, both parties seem to accept him. The elections remain delayed indefinitely, however.

"Dueling Divas"

An interesting thing about Bangladesh is that both of the the main political parties are led by women. Women who really hate each other. I particularly like this quote from a TIME magazine story on the country:

Three years ago former U.S. President Jimmy Carter tried to get the two women to shake hands, but neither could bring herself to even look at the other. At a service for Armed Forces Day two months ago the two women sat on a dais with 14 chairs between them. "God forbid that they should talk and work through some issues," says Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, editor of the Bangladesh Observer.


andy said...

Khaleda is the widow of assassinated president Ziaur Rahman, and Hasina is the daughter of assassinated president Sheikh Mujib. Each claims that their guy is "father of the nation".

Mark said...

Interesting information. BUt you really need to stop using the So Who's Running ____.

Anonymous said...

Bangladesh is currently governed by defacto army goverment headed by gen. Moen. they have put civilian administration as a front of the army rule. but all decisions are being taken by the army

Anonymous said...

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