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Cablegate: Support for Bangladesh's Democratic Transition

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKA #0550/01 1431040
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221040Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6784

UNCLAS DHAKA 000550

SIPDIS

FOR SCA/FO, SCA/PB, F, AND USAID/ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL BG
SUBJECT: SUPPORT FOR BANGLADESH'S DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION

REF: DHAKA 533

SUMMARY
=========

1. (U) As noted reftel, we need additional resources to help
Bangladesh pull off successful elections that lead to more
stable democracy. For free, fair, and credible elections to
take place, an enabling environment with certain conditions
must be created in the next few months. Our assistance and
engagement throughout the process will be critical in
creating, monitoring and sustaining those necessary
conditions.

2. (U) In addition, immediate post-election conditions must
be created to allow a smooth transition to sustainable
democracy. We will require an additional $6 million to fund a
credible Democracy and Governance Program over the coming
year, through the elections and into the initial transition
phase. These funds would be used to provide:

Political Party Support $2.0 million
Elections support $2.6 million
Transition Political Process $1.4 million
-------------------------------------------
TOTAL $6.0 million

BACKGROUND
==========

3. (U) Bangladesh is one of the most populous Muslim nations
in the world. It is poor, prone to natural disasters, and )
despite its moderate culture and political discourse ) not
immune from social upheaval and conflict. The country was
born 37 years ago as an electoral democracy. It has since
held democratic elections sporadically, including the three
most recent ones that resulted in peaceful transfers of
power. It also cultivated a tradition of civic participation
and moderate political discourse since returning to democracy
in 1991. Yet, Bangladesh's development as a democracy has
been interlaced with military rule, debilitating political
polarization, ineffective institutions of governance, and
rampant corruption. Partisan deadlock over electoral issues
led to the cancellation of the 2007 parliamentary election
and the establishment of the present military-backed
Caretaker Government (CTG), which continues to rule under a
state of emergency.

4. (U) The government has promised a return to democracy by
the end of 2008, and the CTG's Chief Adviser announced May 12
that parliamentary elections would be held the third week of
December 2008. However, key components of the government's
political reform and anti-corruption campaign will remain far
from completed by December. The CTG has implemented other
reforms, but they may not be sustained depending on the
results of the currently unpredictable national dialogue and
the level of political parties, commitment to reform.
Maintaining the reform momentum and, at the same time,
rehabilitating democratic institutions and processes will
require support to political parties and facilitation of
dialogue on the pre-requisites for a transition to democracy.

USG DEMOCRACY PROMOTION PROGRAMS
================================

5. (U) The USG works with political parties, through
USAID-funded assistance, to advance internal party democracy
and facilitate intra-party dialogue on reform issues,
especially in the current context of preparations for the
upcoming parliamentary election. As part of program
activities, USAID has helped to facilitate exchanges between
political parties and the Election Commission on changes to
the electoral law. The USG has supported public opinion
surveys, training for women in elected positions, civic
education for young voters, and advocacy for access and
active participation of the disabled. As a result of the
above interventions, USG-funded partners have built a
reputation among key political stakeholders and election
authorities as a reliable source of technical support for
democratic development.

PLANNED ACTIVITIES FOR 2008
===========================

6. (U) Planned activities are designed to capitalize on
current achievements in support of restoring democracy in
Bangladesh. Additional funding will allow USAID to expand
its support for democracy within political parties to favor
broader participation, facilitate issue-based policy
formulation, and facilitate organizational reform to manage
potential leadership change in the parties. The USG would
also intensify its activities in support of national dialogue
and consensus building, especially through intra-party
consultations and communication. The USG would scale up its
efforts to ensure the transparency of national and local
elections by supporting larger domestic and international
election observation deployments. The USG would also
significantly expand civic and voter education campaigns to
engage first-time voters, which constitute almost one third
of the electorate in Bangladesh.

7. (U) The upcoming election in Bangladesh represents a
critical and historic transition in a large and struggling
nation. While the electoral process is important to ensure a
participatory mechanism for transferring power back to a
legitimate government, key post-election activities must be
undertaken to engage with the newly-elected Parliament, local
government bodies and political parties both in government
and in the opposition. Additional funding would be used to
support democratic institutions immediately after their
emergence.

8. (U) Assistance to promote democratic political parties
and free and fair elections will have the effect of
demonstrating USG commitment to restoring democratic
governance in Bangladesh. The continuing and planned
activities may be strengthened to:

--Promote the fairness and transparency of Bangladesh's
upcoming parliamentary and local elections.

--Help create an enabling environment conducive to the
national election and restoration of democracy.

--Promote political party reform and women in politics.

--Assess institutional needs of newly elected bodies of
governance.

9. (U) Our proposed program covers the following specific
activities, which fall into three areas, political party
support, elections and transition political
processes/Parliament.

-------------------------------------
A) POLITICAL PARTY SUPPORT:
-------------------------------------

Political party platform development
Party dialogues
Party polling capacity development
Poll agent training
Women in politics
MP party caucuses

-------------------------------
B) ELECTIONS:
-------------------------------

Pre-election assessments
International long-term observation
International short-term observation
Domestic observation
Post-election roundtables
Public opinion surveys and exit polls
Youth civic and voter education

--------------------------------------------- ---
C) TRANSITION POLITICAL PROCESSES/PARLIAMENT:
--------------------------------------------- ---

Parliament orientation
Policy working groups (pre/post elections)
Women in reserved seats (local and national)
National agenda to lobby Parliament for first 100 days

COMMENT
-------

10. (U) This is a small investment that will reap huge
dividends for democracy. Bangladesh has an enormous Muslim
population and is favorably inclined toward the U.S., but
facing incredible economic and social challenges. Helping
Bangladesh stay on track is a bargain at $6 million.
Letting it fail will have incalculable costs.
Moriarty

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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