The people wait: elections and violence in contemporary Bangladesh
(University of Edinburgh )
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores what it means to periodically wait for national elections in Bangladesh, describing the attendant rituals and socialities that accompany the act of waiting, involving large scale violence, perpetrated by both state and non-state forces.
Paper long abstract:
As I write, the Bangladeshi electorate awaits news of whether national elections will be held in the country. This is not a certainty, despite the fact that they have been called by the incumbent government for the beginning of 2014.
Much of the uncertainty and cause of the delay is the result of whether the system of Caretaker Government (an "independent" body which oversees the period of electioneering) will be brought into place. The current government believes the Caretaker Government system to be unnecessary, arguing that it is trustworthy enough to hold free and fair elections. The largest opposition party, (which itself dithered with the system when it was in power), refuses to contest the polls unless the system is put back in place.
And so the people wait. They have waited since autumn 2013 when the elections were due. This is not new; the country has grappled with military takeovers and dictatorships since its birth in 1971. Across Bangladesh, violence, scores of deaths, nationwide shutdowns, arrests and disappearances have become commonplace. Commentators believe that this can only come to an end not with the election, but with a return of military rule. This will invariably mean more waiting for elections for sometime in the indeterminate future.
This paper explores what it means to periodically wait for elections in Bangladesh. It describes the attendant rituals and socialities that accompany the act of waiting, much of which involves large scale violence, perpetrated by both state and non-state forces.
Ethnographies of waiting