Published : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 at 12:00
With everything on course, we are approaching the 11th national election of Bangladesh to be held very soon. The political field is becoming vulnerable with so many uncertainties revolving around this poll. Few feels that the path is very clear for the ruling party to claim victory and hence forming the government for the third consecutive period. Many people think that there will be some extraordinary movements prior to the poll and the opposition parties will come alive to clinch the victory as they believe the ruling party has lost its touch with the voters. Few movements by the students in recent times are strengthening that belief though it is very hard to ignore the huge development works by the current government. But it is yet to reach that position from where we can make clear remarks. Recently, both the ruling party and the opposition are focusing on spreading their alliance as both certainly believe the unity among the parties will play a great deciding role in the upcoming election. But it is very hard to assume which will play the greatest part while we completely get away from the point that what the people will achieve from the next election.
The ruling party Awami League is trying to get assurance from its most important ally Jatiya Party, which is also the decorative opposition party at the national parliament with its chairperson H.M. Ershad being the special envoy to the PM Sheikh Hasina, to stay in their alliance. Country’s largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is also trying to expand their alliance despite currently leading a 20-party alliance. Recently Jukto Front coalition was formed with Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), Gono Forum, Bikolpo Dhara and Nagorik Oikya. The Islamic or religion based parties are also trying to form a new alliance. These alliances possibly will join either of the two alliances led by Awami league or BNP. The opposition party BNP has called for ‘national unity’ to change the government and hence will try hard to bring these new alliances in their favour.
However BNP’s alliance with controversial fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Islami is coming out to be the greatest barrier to create the alliance they are hoping for. Barrister Kamal Hossain, one of the top two leaders of the newly formed Jukto Front has clearly mentioned that their alliance will not go with BNP’s alliance if Jamaat is a part. They denied relating with any party upholding anti-liberation war ideals. Hence, it has become a great dilemma for BNP if they expand the alliance or stay with Jamaat.
With democracy restored in 1990, it became a trend in Bangladesh that the government will change after every five year’s term. This trend was broken in 2014 when the ruling party regained the power of the government fighting the odds while BNP rejected the election. Though BNP wished to topple the government with strong movements they failed to do so. With their absence in the parliament they got detached from the people. Moreover, they remain inactive on people’s issues while focusing on their political agenda of ‘restoring democracy’.
BNP also has its own problem as their chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia stays behind the bars upon the verdict of a graft case and their acting chairperson Tarique Rahman, living in exile for almost a decade, also sentenced to ten years in prison on the same case. There is apparently a leadership crisis for BNP which is holding them back. They are yet to create any substantial pressure on the government to release their chairperson. Their activists also seem to be gratuitous to put on any strong protest risking prison time. All this displays BNP’s political impoverishment. So, there is no way out for them if they cannot bank on their political alliance, international lobbying and regional negotiation though people’s habit to dislike the government can be the greatest advantage for them in the upcoming election.
Awami League government during its consecutive two terms, have initiated many development projects; some of which have been completed also. Bangladesh has performed well in different indices in the recent past and our development was applauded by the global community a lot. Despite those, due to the activities and words of few ruling party leaders, the government seemed like neglecting the people’s priorities often.
Moreover, some failures like; the failing banking sector, huge corruption, burdening people with increased tax on assets, increase in utility prices, increase in hassles in availing public service, decreasing trust of people on law enforcers and judicial system, increasing arrests due to anti-government posts in social media, arrogant activists etc. has created some gap among the people and the government. Their biggest challenge will be to get the support of the general people. Hence, despite a lot of good works, the truth is- they also remain vulnerable to a free and fair election.
Other than these, several issues are expected to come into the limelight in the upcoming days. The electoral process and election commission’s role will move around the discussion tables. ‘Election-time Government’ Issue will be critical as it has already been declared that none being the member of the parliament is going to be a part of that government and hence, BNP and its allies certainly have lost their chance to be included. Use of EVM, a crucial issue, might be ruled out of the upcoming election. Likewise several agendas can create chaos prior to the election.
Though creating political alliance appears to be the political game right now as many things like; electoral nomination distribution needs to be settled soon, it is hard to bring out any advantage for the people from such ties. The leaders of these new alliances are old campaigners and have been very inactive even a few days ago. They were not seen making any movement to protect the rights of the people or to reduce their sufferings. As the election is nearby, they are just trying to get benefitted personally. People are well aware of the commitment of these leaders and surely with these leaders, nothing will be changed.
We often talk about young leadership. Funny it is that, young leadership in our country means leaders who are young by age or are new in politics or very active in social media. But actually, young leadership means fresh thoughts and concepts in politics but that is not the case in Bangladesh. Leaders should be judged and selected considering the works for the society and their commitment to the people’s welfare. It will be very hard to find some leaders who will pass in those criteria in Bangladesh.
The people need to think why they should vote for someone. We must choose leaders that we know will work for our welfare. We should not be convinced by someone’s delightful speech and dramatic appearance before the election. Moreover, we need to judge if someone has contributed for the society. It is very pathetic that, to serve the interests of the political parties, we have to often go through a lot of sufferings. Hence, it is time to raise our voice and to realize the fact that our role in the democracy is the most crucial.
In this election, these new alliances can take up the challenge to nominate the leaders with fresh nationalistic concepts as well as strong social and national commitment. By meeting up that challenge, a path can be set to take democratic ideology forward in Bangladesh. If they continue with old leaders who are almost inactive on people’s issues for many years, citizen’s benefit will be a dream. Hence, there will be no good options for the voters and voting in the election is going to be useless.
From the current context, it is sure that citizens are going to face lack of options to choose their favourite leaders and hence, it will not really matter if the election is held in a free and fair manner or not as the outcome will not be benefitting for the country or the countrymen. Voting for a leader who does not work for the countrymen’s welfare and only become active prior to the election must be very painful.
In this election also, we have to go through this pain. The young leaders are also not allowing us to be very hopeful. But nevertheless we are hopeful the political scenario in Bangladesh will change someday and complete democracy will rule. Meanwhile, we are ready to embrace the happenings around the next general election and welcome the new government by the beginning of the next year.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)