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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