Caretaker government in Bangladesh

Are there any other countries besides Bangladesh where the incumbent government is formally replaced by a caretaker in the period immediately before a general election? I do not know of such a case.

There have been several days of rioting in Bangladesh as the main parties have failed to agree on who the interim leader should be. Now the President has been sworn in as interim head, but the primary opposition party, the Awami League, does not recognize him for this role.

In fact, unlike the presidencies in most parliamentary democracies, Bangladesh’s presidency is in no way a neutral and primarly ceremonial figure. He is appointed by the same majority as that which appoints the prime minister and cabinet, and to the same term. He is thus a bad candiate for a “caretaker” role.

But the very idea of a caretaker to administer elections is rather odd. Given the history of government intervention in elections in Bangladesh, the aim of a neutral campaign-period government is sensible, but this institutional “solution” is clearly less optimal than would be the establishment of an independent electoral commission. In fact, arguably the chimera of a neutral caretaker government–and the resulting conflict over who will head it–is worse than leaving the incumbent government to administer the elections, as is the case everywhere else that I know of.


I acknowledge the work of SK, a student from last spring’s Institutional Engineering and Democracy course, who wrote a really interesting paper on elections and institutional reform in Bangladesh.

0 thoughts on “Caretaker government in Bangladesh

  1. I am very pleased to find some discussion on bangladesh’s transitionary period on this blog. The caretaker system is indeed an interesting system and, as stated earlier, the result of underlying distrust in the election commission. It is unfortunate that this underlying root causes that necessitated a caretaker government – that is distrust in the election commission have not been addressed since 1991. Now you have a situation where neither the election commission, nor the caretaker government is acceptable to the opposition, and another three bodies lie bloodied in the streets of dhaka.

    Much of what occurs politically appears to be only loosely based on legal rules, and largely based on precedent – such as the appointment of non-elected deputy commissioners as returning officers as the chief electoral authority in each of the 66 administrative districts.

    It is also very interesting that parties negotiate within their respective coalitions which partner has the opportunity to run within particular constituencies (300) in all. For example, within the four-party alliance that governed the country before the current transitional period, the BNP may have secured its position to run candidates in 200 constituencies, Jamaat-Islami the opportunity to run in 50 constituencuies, etc, etc. What this means for developing party poltics in a country where candidates secure thier own right to run through a combination of political muscle and money, and where party platform apparantly means little is interesting. I am actually hoping that this posting will stimulate a little bit of debate around this topic. Are there other first past the post systems where coalitions negotiate – or pre-determine their structure in this way? What does this mean for party politics and the free choice of voters?

  2. I know an electoral system where the parties had to negotiate within each coalition which party would fight for which constituency.

    In the general elections of 1994, 1996 and 2001 in Italy a mixed system (3/4 SMD, 1/4 PR) was used. It replaced a fully PR system with many parties. It was intended to facilitate a two-party-system, but it created a two-coalition-system and a broad scala of parties survived within these two coalitions.

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  5. The caretaker government of Fakruddin Ahmed has tainted the concept of 90 day concept launched in 1991 after fall of despicable dictator Ershad.

    The Fakruddin government has failed miserably. It is basically an implanted fascist military-backed junta imposed on democracy-loving people of Bangladesh by the brutal fascist Bush-Cheney duo and the World Bank-IMF-UN-EU clique exporting conflicts abroad away from mainland US and Europe to destabilize international affairs to their advantage.

    Fakruddin is far worse than Iajuddin, the BNP appointed president who was the first one to pollute and contaminate the much acclaimed ‘caretaker’ concept in 2006. In it’s wake the international money making mafia implanted a low key employee from world bank to sign deals and contracts under an unelected fascist unconstitutional government. This is exactly what the brutal barbarian regime of Cheney (Bush is just a pawn-he hardly understands any geopolitics!) is doing everywhere in the world to secure energy resources all over the world.

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