Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oxford Analytica on Bangladesh Dialogue

The Awami League (AL) today said it would boycott talks with the military-backed government on the restoration of democracy. The talks were only convened last week, following confirmation from Dhaka that elections would take place in December, almost two years after the imposition of emergency rule. Political violence and bitter rivalry between the AL and the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP), which has also expressed opposition to the talks, had threatened to derail elections that were due to take place in early 2007. The subsequent appointment of a technocratic caretaker government was heralded as an opportunity to overhaul the political system.

However, reforms have stalled and efforts to create successors to the AL and the BNP have failed. Both parties have linked participation in talks with the government to the release from detention of their leaders, Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia (both former prime ministers). Both have been detained as part of an anti-corruption campaign, along with dozens of other politicians.

While the AL and BNP leaders are in detention, with the prospect of their parties being reformed dimmed, there is a risk of political violence and a poll boycott later this year, raising the prospect of continued, and unpopular, military-backed rule.

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