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Election Manifestos Review: Wide gap between actions and words found, Call for promises with timely action plan highlighting Good Governance and Integrity

Political parties of Bangladesh have failed markedly in fulfilling their pledges made in the election manifestos especially with regards to strengthening good governance and integrity. In all of the elections held since independence, though some governance related significant commitments were addressed and accomplished, a huge gap was identified between achievements and promises made in manifestos. Pledges in relation to establishing an effective parliament, recruitment of the ombudsperson, scrapping of draconian laws, disclosure of information of the people’s representatives’ wealth and establishment of terrestrial radio and television channel as independent institutions were never fulfilled. On the contrary, the parties were found enacting regressive and controversial laws those went against the spirit of democracy and good governance to control people’s rights to freedom of expression and thoughts. It was also found that the parties lack sufficient timely action plans for implementation of the plights with regards to good governance and integrity. These observations were made in a TIB working paper titled ‘Good Governance and Integrity in the Manifestos of Political Parties’, released in a Press Conference on September 17, 2018 at its Dhanmondi office.  
In the wake of the parliamentary election, to ensure inclusive election with participation of all the eligible parties, TIB stressed on comprising necessary pledges with timely plan of implementation contributing to good governance and integrity in the election manifestos and placed set of recommendations for the political parties. It also suggested that the parties should publish reports on how many promises they had fulfilled according to their election manifestos.
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director; Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Adviser-Executive Management; Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan, Director of Research and Policy, of TIB were present at the press conference. Shahzada M Akram, Senior Programme Manager of Research and Policy presented the study analysis.
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “Political parties play a crucial role in the election, their goodwill is also essential for conducting an acceptable poll. Though the parties stated their position related to good governance and integrity in manifesto during the last several parliamentary elections, their implementation was much lower comparing to the commitment. A lack of seriousness and required will in implementing promises has been found among the political parties after they got elected.” He urged the parties to start practise of introducing comparative report on how many promises they have implemented from their earlier manifesto in their next manifesto following a self-assessment. Dr. Zaman said, “The political parties must clearly state that what role they will play after winning the election and how they will contribute if they do not win the election.” He also called for keeping government agencies such as Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) out of party and political influences. 
Addressing the wide gap between actions and words of political parties in the election manifestos, Dr. Zaman said, “Unfortunately, many accomplishments can’t produce outputs in reality, as some of them are not followed-up and reviewed with necessary means for implementation. And in some of the cases, accomplishments were hushed with regressive reform initiatives such as some provisions of Draft Digital Security Acts are contradictory with Right to Information Act; similarly, an attempt is underway to curtail the power of Anti-Corruption Commission by relevant provision of Draft Public Service Act.” To resist corruption, Dr. Zaman urged all the political parties to include necessary pledges in the election manifesto such as creating enabling environment for apprehending the corrupt being above person’s identity and position. 
Along with other issues, since the upcoming election is going to be the first since the announcement of SDGs, Dr. Zaman hoped that all the political parties will include the implementation plans of those goals in their manifestos highlighting targets of Goal 16 i.e. good governance, amplification of transparent, effective and responsible institutions in all levels with issues like justice, human rights, inclusive development with leaving no one behind, freedom of expression and information, freedom of speech and control of corruption.  
The study observed a tendency to influence election results when an individual party was in power and they also have a tendency to maintain their grip on power, which is why people have lost confidence in any election system under a partisan government.  Political parties also do not tend to accept election results if they lose, it also observed.
The study also recommended that the chief of a party, the head of the government, and the leader of the parliament, should not be the same person. It further recommended to provide the opposition more opportunity to participate in parliamentary activities (such as recruitment of deputy speaker, nomination of the opposition party member as the president in one-third of the committee), and in formulating a code of conduct for members of parliament. 
According to the working paper, the immediate outgoing ruling party must prepare a report on to what extent it has fulfilled its electoral commitments made in the previous election and make the report public. Every political party, participating in the parliamentary election, must make it clear in the manifesto, what role it will play to establish democracy and good governance even if it does not form government through winning the election. It also suggested that all the political parties must develop their respective work plans for the implementation of recommendations as laid in the National Integrity Strategy. TIB also urged the political parties to clear their position in the manifestos against legalising black money in the national budget and commitment to bringing back all laundered money.
The other notable recommendations included among others: discarding nepotism, vested group interest and political consideration in the recruitment of posts, including assignment of the chairman and commissioner of constitutional organizations such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and avoiding party considerations and initiating reforms if needed; not reforming any law that can undermine the independence and effectiveness of the ACC; withdrawing politically motivated cases, and freeing the judiciary from the influence of the Executive Division, making it independent and neutral; bringing political parties within the purview of the Right to Information Act 2009; taking a consolidated and all-encompassing strategy for increasing the professional advancement and effectiveness of the judiciary, administration and law enforcement; Ensuring independence of media.

For further detail information, please click below the links:

Full Report (English)
Executive Summary (Bangla)