Electoral reforms in Bangladesh saw its election commission evolve into one of the most trusted and independent institutions in public life that could lead to long-term improvements in governance if they are sustained, says a UN report.
The study, commissioned by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), concluded that the electoral reforms leading up to the 2008 national elections supported a number of important building blocks that are now better serving the needs and aspirations of the people of Bangladesh.
The Elections in Bangladesh 2006-2009: Transforming Failure into Success analyses how the collapsed electoral process was transformed within a relatively short period of time into elections that received national and global recognition for their free, fair and credible conduct.
The unique events of this period are a valuable reference tool for Bangladesh and other countries and provide important lessons for the future, it said.
This transformation was the result of a concerted effort by many stakeholders to identify and improve legal, political and procedural shortcomings, the study finds.
Reforms, including creation of electoral rolls with photographs, mandatory registration of political parties and changes to the candidate nomination processes, saw the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) evolve into one of the most independent institutions in public life.
“Progress on electoral reforms undertaken during the 2008 election period needs to be sustained. For this, the independence of the election commission is absolutely critical. Also, all stakeholders have a role and responsibility to play in ensuring an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections," said Stefan Priesner, UNDP resident representative.
“The electoral reform process was tortuous but it produced changes that could lead to long-term improvements in governance if they are sustained and institutionalised good practices developed in 2008 elections might help other countries solve or avoid some of the same problems," the study states.
The study also focuses on some challenges that remain and identifies possible areas for further improvement.
The authors conclude that critical to maintaining the success of the electoral reform process is the sustained political will by all stakeholders - the government, parliament and political parties - to ensure that conditions remain in place for free, fair and credible elections.