Elections fail to meet expecations
The 11th parliamentary election was inclusive but failed to meet the people’s expectations. Despite the participation of all political parties, its one-sided image prevailed.
Throughout the campaign, the political opposition faced a surfeit of cases and attacks.
Even so, the main opposition gave an impression that the situation would take a turn on voting day and the election would take place with much festivity and enthusiasm.
One of the main features of this election was the participation of 25 million fresh voters. Unfortunately, they lacked the expected enthusiasm and excitement.
The opposition was hardly visible during the election campaign in many places of the country, including in the capital Dhaka. And on the voting day there were no BNP agents at the polling centres countrywide.
The violence during the elections cannot be taken lightly either. As many as 17 people were killed and many other incidents of violence occurred throughout the country.
A participatory election implies a competitive one. The concept that the more the competitors, the stronger the competition, was proven to be wrong. As we have repeatedly been saying, a level playing field was simply not ensured in the election.
This lack of a level playing field was all too apparent on election day. The chief election commissioner, however, said, “What can we do if the BNP agents do not come to the centres? Only the respected candidates knows why they did not come. The candidates’ agents can only say why there were not there.”
This is a weak argument and a shirking of his responsibility. The results of the various local government elections conducted by the election commission proves that Bangladesh Nationalist Party is the major opposition in the country.
The BNP-led Oikya Front fielded candidates in 300 constituencies primarily despite the unfavourable atmosphere. It would be abnormal in any circumstance for such a big party to be unable to arrange polling agents.
Such untoward comments by the CEC reminds us of similar comments made by the EC after the uncontested victory of AL’s 154 candidates in the 2014 election.
This participatory election was lifeless. The national election has lost its festive appeal.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the election was festive apart from a few isolated incidents. However, his claim is hardly credible as the major constituerncies were enshrouded in an environment of fear.
Jatiya Oikya Front alleged that the ballot boxes were filled in many places on previous night, in addition to the mass arrests of the opposition leaders and activists.
They demanded that the 30 December election be cancelled and a reelection take place. They said this election saw unprecedented vote rigging. BNP brought about specific allegations of irregularities in 221 seats. The party’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that their opponent was the state itself in this election.
All this may be true, but but BNP and Oikya Front also needs introspection to consider the problems in their leadership and organisational weaknesses.
The question now is, how will this election contribute to a pluralistic society and democracy, and where it will take the politics of the country.
Will this election help in overcoming the shortfalls of our democracy, or will it excentuate the lackings? Will this state be more respectful towards freedom of speech and tolerance?
These questions loom large now that the election is over. We unarguably need development, but development cannot be sustained without democracy.