The NDI recently organised a multinational delegation to assess the political environment in Bangladesh ahead of the January 2007 elections. Their report is now published (links to pdf file). It is not a particularly perceptive report but gives a good and competent summary of the present circumstances. And what I found most interesting is that in several places it discusses intra-party conflict, that is violence and intimidation etc within a party. Equally importantly, this report also raises the issue of exploitation of youth for political purposes.

So here are some extracts. First the sad bits:

The political parties are locked in their own internal and external conflicts and, in the eyes of many, appear estranged from the real-world challenges and needs of the 140 million people of Bangladesh.

The delegation found that many individuals blame the current impasse on the inability of senio rpolitical leaders to enter into discussions and to reach necessary compromises. The oft-voiced complaint was that elections were about political ambition and not the future of the country and the public welfare.

The delegation also received reports of incidences of intimidation and violence against women and religious and ethnic minorities. These reports are of particular concern to the delegation. If left unaddressed, such actions may undermine the reputation of Bangladesh as a tolerant society.

The funny bits.

The report here reads like a comedy script. And the last line reveals what the delegation thought of Aziz - incompetent and a serious problem.

The delegation was deeply concerned to hear from a broad cross-section of parties, civil society,media and independent observers of a widespread lack of confidence in the Election Commissionand, specifically, the Chief Election Commissioner. When the delegates raised the issue with the Commissioner, he did not acknowledge that a problem existed and later reported to the media that the delegation had been misinformed. The delegation has identified a perception of incompetence and bias as a serious problem that requires being addressed.

The absurd bits:

National and local authorities, the police agencies, the military forces, the political parties and civil society should discuss and devise strategies to curb the rampant violence that threatens to destabilize not just the electoral process but also society, itself.

You wot mate? These are the very chaps who are doing the rampant violent stuff!

…….. the leaders of two major party coalitions have a higher obligation to strengthen democratic practice and to improve parliamentary governance.

Sadly there is little chance of them realising this……