Friday, December 26, 2008

No Honeymoon For Bangladesh’s Next Government

I would like to share two important analyses by two internationally renowned organizations. These are: NewYork-based PRS Group and Asia Monitor.

According to PRS’s latest report on Bangladesh, the most likely regimes for next 18 months forecast is: Regime 1: Military-Civilian 70%, Regime 2: Caretaker Government 20%, Regime 3: Unity Coalition 10%. For five year forecasts, the most likely regimes are: Regime 1: Military-Civilian 65%, Regime 2: Unity Coalition 20% and Regime 3: Military 15%.

In the category of turmoil ratings it sees little or no possibility of turmoil in both 18 months and five years forecasts.

Asia Monitor’s December report is very interesting as it provides four scenarios with this caution that there will be no honeymoon for the next government, regardless who wins. It also said: “Our short-term political risk rating remains 57.3, but downside risks exist in the public unrest and constitutional change categories, given the present outlook. “.

Let us now have a look at four scenarios one by one:

Scenario 1: Smooth Transition To New Government

The best case scenario is that elections pass smoothly, and that either the BNP-led coalition or the AL-led coalition win a sufficient majority to govern effectively. The polls are then deemed free and fair, and the loser graciously concedes defeat, realising that disruptive behaviour would only make it seem like a sore loser. The new government then takes over in January, and rules for the next five years. However, given the contentiousness of Bangladeshi politics, and the bitterness between Khaleda and Hasina, we deem a smooth outcome somewhat unlikely.

Scenario 2: Disputed Election Leads To Unrest

A more plausible scenario is that the loser refuses to acknowledge defeat, citing electoral malpractices of some sort. The losing ticket would then mobilise their supporters in droves, effectively seeking to overturn the results in a Ukraine-style 'Orange Revolution' in the streets. This could entail a re-run of voting in certain districts, or an outright demand for fresh elections. Meanwhile, the victor could bring out its own supporters, leading to street battles in Dhaka and other major cities. Such protests could fizzle quickly, amid political weariness, or escalate dramatically. At this point, the military could disperse the protests, or seek to form a government of national unity. There would also be a risk of disruption to local elections due to January 22 2009, and of the next parliament being boycotted.

Scenario 3: National Unity Government

An extended period of post-election unrest could lead to calls for a government of national unity, whereby Khaleda and Hasina could be forced to share power. Although they are arch enemies, there have been post-election power-sharing agreements forged between equally hostile figures in Kenya and Zimbabwe after violence (although Zimbabwe's case is looking increasingly fragile). In Bangladesh, the military could emerge as an arbiter in any such negotiations, which could last for many weeks after the election. The key areas of dispute would centre on the division of ministries, the control of the security forces, and the timetable for a new election sooner than five years. It is also possible that the military would seek to broker an agreement between reformist elements of the BNP and AL, marginalising Khaleda and Hasina. We deem a unity government scenario to be moderately likely.

Scenario 4: Outright Military Coup

If Bangladesh descends into anarchy, and attempts to install a new government fail, then the last option would be a military coup. Many have suspected the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, of holding political ambitions. There had been speculation that he might seek to become president with executive powers, replacing the largely ceremonial incumbent Iajuddin Ahmed (no relation), whose term expired in September 2007 but has stayed on in an interim capacity. Moeen is due to step down as army chief in June 2009, and could thus be looking for a new job. However, a coup would also be risky, for it would set back Bangladesh's political development by many years. Furthermore, military coups in Pakistan, Thailand, and Bangladesh itself (if one counts the January 2007 installation of the CTG as a coup), although initially welcomed, quickly lost public support. Thus, we view a coup as a last resort.

We sincerely hope that Bangladesh doesn’t plunge into more chaotic situation after election and an orderly transfer of power will take place as desired by democracy-loving people of Bangladesh

No comments:

Post a Comment