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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And so they lived happily ever after?

The New Year started hopefully for the people of Bangladesh. Finally, after two years of repressive military rule they were allowed to cast their votes in parliamentary elections which even included women and minorities. So far the election has generally been considered free and fair, not only by the ‘international observers’ paying their quick visits but by local human rights activists and investigators as well. Well at least so they say.

Awami League defeated the BNP four party alliances in the Bangladeshi 9th parliamentary election on the 29th December, 2008. Sheik Hasina’s government is expected to be sworn in by Tuesday.

Looking back to the violent situation in 2001, where in particular women and minorities were severely persecuted, there were legitimate concerns that the elections would be unfair and that the minorities would be hindered to cast their votes freely.

The elections were indeed preceded by scattered violence and there were some attacks reported against Hindu and Buddhist minorities by cadres from both coalitions.

Despite of this, with an amazing 87 percent turnover the outcome must somehow reflect the popular will. The high turnover in itself was unusual because in the past women and minority voters were prevented from voting.

Although concerns regarding corruption and violence remain, the return to democracy in Bangladesh is welcomed, it brings hope. A government elected by most of the people is preferable to any military dictatorship.

Especially one that remain in power through the methods of terror, torture and killings of its own citizens.

Let us hope that the new government will make a real effort to bring and end to ‘traditional’ Bangladeshi ruling methods. Introduce the rule of law, respect for human rights for all. Let the people of Bangladesh live happily ever after!