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Working paper 132
Between 1990 and 2009, the violent competition characteristic of Bangladeshi politics was tempered during elections through a system of caretaker government, which managed successfully to adjudicate between parties in a neutral manner. Since the system was repealed in 2011 however, elections have more closely resembled those seen previously under military rule. This paper examines the most recent election, the controversial 2018 landslide victory for the Awami League. Based on a multi-site analysis, we examine how the victory was achieved, reviewing the candidate nomination process, campaigns and election day itself. The ruling party’s success lies in efficient party management, with factionalism kept in check, an appealing vision of a developed and ‘digital’ Bangladesh and, most fundamentally, widespread coercion of political opposition using the apparatus of the state. The election articulates two key characteristics of contemporary Bangladeshi politics: state coercion and developmentalist ambitions.
Working paper 131
The proliferation of social cash transfers (SCTs) across much of Africa has resulted from interactions between international organisations – including both UN and related organisations, the donor agencies of governments in the global North, and international non-government organisations – and national governments. SCTs were central to the social protection agenda taken up by almost every international organisation since about 2000. In this paper we employ Tania Li’s framework on how development ideas travel, to understand the political economic context for the rising enthusiasm for SCTs, the ideational contestation over these, and the strategies of governmentality deployed to ‘render technical’ problems of poverty and vulnerability. Crucially, we show how international organisations developed diverse approaches to SCTs in terms of who should get what, how and why. Through a close analysis of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), we show that this process of policy transfer was shaped by the internal workings of the ‘aidworld’. In part because SCTs were subject to contestation within and between organisations, organisations tended to render political choices as technical ones. DFID was unusual in acknowledging that the process of introducing SCTs in any particular country was a political one, but even DFID viewed SCTs as a largely technical issue, limiting its efficacy in most African countries.
Working paper 130
This paper analyses the performance of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) in delivering on its mandate since the organisation gained formal independence in the early-1990s. It utilises a political settlements approach, tracking how the distribution of power has shaped CBK’s effectiveness over time. The paper finds that Kenya’s political settlement has constrained CBK’s performance in certain respects, particularly with regards to financial sector supervision, where the organisation must operate within a tight set of political constraints because of the sector’s importance in enabling vital patronage networks and generating political financing for elections. This has often incentivised CBK governors to undertake incremental reforms that balance developmental and political interests; governors who have not been willing to compromise in this way have undermined the organisation’s independence and autonomy by provoking a backlash. The paper also finds that Kenya’s competitive clientelist political settlement has caused difficulties for CBK in undertaking its price stability mandate. This is particularly the case during election periods, when the organisation faces pressure to adopt a looser stance. Nonetheless, despite these pressures, the paper finds that CBK has, overall, been effective in delivering on its core mandate throughout the period under analysis, to the extent that it can be labelled a long-standing ‘pocket of effectiveness’. This is because three other sets of factors have played a kind of countervailing role, by keeping CBK relatively insulated from the most corrosive aspects of Kenya’s competitive clientelism. These are: transnational factors; ideas and ideology; and organisational-level factors, including CBK’s leadership and its formal and informal sources of autonomy.
Working paper 129
Managing coercion is often central to the pursuit of political dominance, and yet also a neglected field of study. The sources of coercive capacity within a political regime differ markedly, and include the formal apparatus of the state, political parties, and an array of more ambiguous actors often connected to both. Underlying how such actors are managed are strategic choices, which shape the character of governance and politics, and come with trade-offs and risks. This article examines the management of coercion in Bangladesh, a context where the ruling party has seen an unprecedented decade in office, yet serious questions have been raised about the means by which this has been achieved. Our analysis highlights the intensification of long-established practices, including the politicisation and empowerment of domestic security agencies, and the use of the law to repress. The way in which coercion is now organised in Bangladesh, more closely reflects the first few decades of the country’s history.
Working paper 128
Uganda is frequently lauded for adopting a rules-based approach to oil governance, despite having failed to move to production after discovering commercial quantities of oil in 2006. This has been closely associated with the political support and autonomy offered to a ‘pocket of bureaucratic effectiveness’ (PoE) within the Ministry of Energy that has managed to secure favourable deals with international oil companies. However, since 2013 Uganda’s oil assemblage has undergone significant institutional reforms in line with international best-practice, with new entities established to ensure that the policy, regulatory and commercial dimensions of the sector are now handled separately. This paper explores whether best-practice reforms make sense within a country like Uganda, particularly given its changing political settlement dynamics in recent years. We find that the interaction of these reforms with the increasingly vulnerable and factionalised ruling coalition in Uganda has led oil governance to become more fragmented and personalised in certain respects, but also that its previous investment in building a PoE has enabled government to manage the process better than expected, often through the continuity of informal practices. Whilst the nascent move to build the new regulatory and commercial entities into PoEs is potentially promising, tensions between these two organisations, and the fact that this process has involved hollowing-out capacity within the policy department, has weakened the coherence of oil governance in Uganda, and undermined its ability to undertake policy reforms and the further exploration required to secure the viability of the oil sector.
Working paper 127
Throughout Bangladesh’s history, its capital Dhaka has witnessed intense political competition, including numerous coup, mass uprisings and, more recently, a violent rivalry between the Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Over recent decades, rallies, strikes, street fights and small bombings have been common, and while undesirable normatively, are taken as a sign of lively political competition. It is then striking that since 2015 the opposition have largely failed to disrupt the city, with the ruling Awami League achieving a level of dominance unseen in the country’s history. These events beg an obvious question: how has this been achieved? This paper argues that fundamental to this transition has been a shift in the character of the coercive organisations available to both ruling and opposition parties. The Awami League has strategically empowered the security agencies, enabling widespread arrests, intimidation and new surveillance technologies. This has eroded the organisational strength of the opposition, who, crucially, are also suffering the legacy of previous decisions, particularly the killing of gangsters in their last term in office, which today deprives them of the type of street muscle needed to compete. The BNP are left overwhelmed, having to negotiate and resist everyday forms of repression. With the security agencies central to sustaining political order in favour of the ruling party, these forms of governance will continue, and there are signs that an even more ambitious urban security agenda is emerging.
Working paper 126
This paper contributes to the debate on the Sustainable Development Goals progress by evaluating the MDGs’ achievements in South Asia and the policy and institutional challenges deriving from such experience. Using cross-country regressions and aggregate indicators of poverty, health, education and gender parity outcomes, we offer three sets of findings. First, comparative evidence shows that, while South Asia has converged with richer regions, there is still significant variation in gender equality, universal primary education, and income poverty achievements across countries. Second, projections based on past trends on where SDGs are expected to be by 2030 reveal that there is a long way to go, and that emblematic targets such as income poverty eradication may not be met in the populous South Asian countries. Finally, considering the expanded set of development targets in the SDGs and the growth slowdown in South Asia, we argue that further progress would simultaneously require increased public spending on health and education and reforms improving state capacity. A simulation exercise confirms that such a combination of interventions would deliver significant benefits in the region, particularly in areas that are critical to progress on the goals of ‘No Poverty’, ‘Quality Education’, ‘Gender Equality’, and ‘Inclusive Growth’.
Working paper 125
For decades, large-scale political mobilisation in Bangladesh has been monopolised by deep-rooted and often violent political parties. Over the past decade, however, the opposition has been suppressed, leaving them unable to wage the strikes and protests typical of the country’s politics. Alongside their decline has been a resurgence of street movement beyond conventional political boundaries. These movements are unpredictable, coalesce around issues of injustice, and emerge in particular from urban students. This article examines the movements for reform to civil service quotas, and for improved road safety, seen primarily in Dhaka in 2018. Such movements pose two principal threats to the ruling party: first, they have the potential to undermine their legitimacy and create a moment of crisis on which the opposition could capitalise; second, they can exacerbate tensions between interest groups on whom the ruling party rely to maintain power. The state response of concessions and repression reflects these threats and the delicate balance of maintaining legitimacy while using coercion. With a rich history of political movements and a lack of alternative channels for political expression, responding to grievances that can motivate such movements will be an important challenge for the ruling party to maintain their grip on power.
Working paper 124
Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen and Thabit Jacob
In recent decades, reforms have been introduced in developing countries to promote economic transformation, democracy and the rule of law. However, structural factors have often undermined their implementation. This is a key insight of the political settlement analysis that has proliferated in scholarly research. Its unpacking of the sorts of intra-elite relations that are instrumental in choosing policies and their modes of implementation is a major achievement. However, with its focus on hard force and economic rents, it is less clear regarding the role of elections and popular legitimacy, which have become more important recently. Inspired by an adapted political settlement analysis, and by drawing on the strategic-relational approach, this paper aims to explain contemporary forms of power and legitimacy in greater detail. Using Tanzania – which has had the same party in power since independence – as a critical case study, we demonstrate that, in the context of democratisation, the country’s political elites are increasingly attempting to earn popular legitimacy. In Tanzania, earlier attempts to earn popular legitimacy through the expansion of social services to the rural majority were radicalised when a new president came to power in 2015. During the historically competitive elections, he campaigned on a platform of reversing years of domination by business and political elites. He later crafted a series of nationalist narratives and attacks on private investors, not least foreign ones, to bolster his legitimacy in the eyes of the wider population. This implies a more prominent role for populations in developing countries than is often acknowledged. We also suggest that, in the context of democratisation, analyses of legitimacy should include two more dimensions: first, a political elite’s relationship with its political opponents, who in Tanzania have been systematically delegitimised; and secondly, international recognition, which since the 1980s has required the holding of regular elections and is important for resource mobilisation. We therefore argue that legitimacy should be analysed as a source of power in its own right, in line with force and rents; it is the combination of these different sources of power that matters.