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Back and Forth in Bangladesh

An article written by Howard B. Schaffer on the October 2001 parliamentary elections in Bangladesh.

On 1 October 2001 Bangladeshis went to the polls to elect the country’s eighth postindependence National Parliament (Jatiya Sangsad). In the third contested race under the democratic political system established in 1990 with the overthrow of General H.M. Ershad’s authoritarian, army-led regime, voters once again turned out in large numbers after a bitter campaign marred by violence. Women, who in Muslim Bangladesh vote at separate polling stations, were prominent among them. Many waited for hours in the hot sun dressed in their best saris to mark and cast their paper ballots. Overall, some 75 percent of registered voters turned out, about the same proportion as in the last general election, which was held in 1996. Despite dire forecasts of further violent clashes and predictions of large-scale electoral malpractice, a peaceful atmosphere generally prevailed on election day in the cities as well as in the countryside, where most Bangladeshis live. The 50,000 troops deployed on election duty helped ensure this, as did the zealous work of the country’s nonpartisan Election Commission, which is directly responsible for running an operation involving almost 60 million voters.

Originally published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Democracy.

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Teresita C. Schaffer

Teresita C. Schaffer is an expert on economic, political, security and risk management trends in India and Pakistan, as well as on the region that extends from Afghanistan through Bangladesh. She is a Senior Adviser to McLarty Associates, a Washington-based international strategic advisory firm. Ambassador Schaffer is a Trustee of the Asia Foundation.

In a 30-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Schaffer was recognized as one of the State Department’s leading experts on South Asia, where she spent a total of 11 years. Her other career focus was on international economic issues. She served in U.S. embassies in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and from 1992-95 as U.S. Ambassador in Sri Lanka. During her assignments in the State Department in Washington, she was Director of the Office of International Trade and later Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia, at that time the senior South Asia policy position in the State Department. Read more

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Howard B. Schaffer

Howard B. Schaffer is a retired American Foreign Service officer who spent much of his 36-year career dealing with U.S. relations with South Asia. He is an adjunct professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  He previously served as ambassador to Bangladesh (1984-87), political counselor at American embassies in India (1977-79) and Pakistan (1974-77), and was twice deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for South Asian affairs. His earlier assignments included stints as director of the Office of Indian, Nepalese, and Sri Lankan Affairs and postings to New Delhi, Seoul, and Kuala Lumpur. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1991 and returned in 1995 to Washington from Sri Lanka, where his wife, Teresita C. Schaffer, was American ambassador. From 1996-2011 he was at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Read more

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