SOUTH ASIA’S two biggest Muslim-majority countries, with
350m people between them, are poised for general elections. For both Pakistan and that is no mean feat,
given their dismal histories (first as one country and then, since 1971, as
two) of coups, prolonged military rule and bloody turmoil. Bangladesh
early in 2013—or just possibly late 2012. Whatever the result, it is cause for
celebration. No civilian, elected leader in Pakistani history has ever
completed a full term in office and then passed power to an elected successor.
That shameful record is about to end. Pakistan
Nobody expected much of President Asif Ali Zardari, who came to office after the murder of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, at a campaign rally in 2007. He is unpopular, yet has been wily enough to hang on for five years—despite terrorism, floods, a dire economy, the discovery (and killing) of Osama bin Laden on his territory, and bitter rows with generals and judges.
Though a survivor, his re-election is unlikely. Instead, Nawaz Sharif, a Punjabi and a former prime minister, expects to gain. However, he has made enemies in the army. If he seems to be doing well, the generals will be sorely tempted to meddle again in some way. They should restrain themselves.
Then there is a wild card: Imran Khan. A cricket hero turned devout politician, he has grown increasingly popular, with huge rallies, both for opposing all things American—especially drone strikes in Waziristan—and for an anti-corruption drive. Young Pakistanis are fired up. He predicts that a “tsunami” will sweep him to office. At the very least he has made the polls more uncertain.
general elections loom:
they are expected late in 2013. The government of Sheikh Hasina will complete
its full term, and the army there is unlikely to step in. She then expects to
make history as the first Bangladeshi leader to be voted in for a second
successive term. Bangladesh
But the coming months are bound to be tense, with debate over the conduct of the polls. Vitriol and distrust are so strong that usually an independent, caretaker government runs things before and during elections. To the fury of the opposition, Sheikh Hasina scrapped that arrangement when rewriting the constitution in 2011. Her old rival, Khaleda Zia, now threatens to boycott both parliament and the elections, and to use strikes and protests—which means violence—to compete instead.
That bodes ill for
The next election, and its winner, must be credible, which means the voting has
to be competitive and fair. Democracy just for show is not democracy at all. Bangladesh
November 21, 2012