Who won and who lost?

Mamun Rashid

It was not Tabith Awal, Zonayed Saki, or Abdullah Kafi, but ‘democracy’ that had lost

  • Photo- Rajib Dhar

To paraphrase Machiavelli from his book The Prince — thought to be the first leadership advice to the Western world — “Whether the prince believes in religion or not, he must pretend to be religious.” There is a certain truth to this. Today, for many of us, if we wish to be seen and treated as intelligent and respected people, we must pretend to be “democracy loving,” trying to champion “democratic values.” Even if we don’t believe in democracy.

The Dhaka City North mayoral candidate from the ruling party … sorry, “ruling party-supported candidate” … was Mr Annisul Huq. Annisul is known and loved by many in the business community, also known as the “civil society” folk.

Knowing him, Annisul really has worked very hard for this. His celebrity spouse was his “chief election agent.” His son and his daughter also accompanied him in his door-to-door campaigning, requesting votes for their father.

The media quoted Annisul: “My father and daughter also think that this mayoral position could be the best way to serve the people.” A few years ago, a weekly had reported that he apparently said he didn’t have many known vices other than evading taxes to the national exchequer. He may be like his Chittagong business community friends, who donate a lot as zakat. A good person indeed.

I am very happy Annisul has won the Dhaka City North mayoral election. Late at night, I have watched his wife Rubana Huq speaking to the media, with our former foreign minister Dipu Moni, speaking to journalists, almost showing the V sign. I wish we could also show the victory sign and join in the celebration of his success.

My friends are all asking the looming question: “Who lost in the Dhaka City North election?” Whether we blame the opposition for not being close to the people or championing “people causes,” it was not Tabith Awal, Zonayed Saki, or Abdullah Kafi, but “democracy” that had lost.

Just after the January 5, 2014 election, my senior friends and teachers were all abuzz asking the same question: “Why won’t the chief election commissioner resign?” I told them that our CEC was a good man, having sided with the liberation forces in 1971, and is known to be a very good civil bureaucrat who can’t submit to anarchy — the opposition or civil society are not right all the time.

I am sorry, but I just cannot subscribe to this definition of democracy in which you “either vote for the ruling party-supported candidate or get lost.”

Again, I apologise, but this is not democracy. I guess Annisul did not truly earn his victory in that regard. According to money laundering guidelines: “Any unearned money is laundered money.”

This “victory” was thus a laundered victory.

I know, almost for sure, that if BNP was in power they would have tried to do the same thing. In fact, they tried to do the same thing during the early 2007 national election — when we had an interim government backed by the armed forces for almost two years. They were brought in to reform our politics, our political system, our political parties, and also free the judiciary, administration, and the Anti Corruption Commission from the clutches of manipulation. When we look back now, I can’t tell if we have achieved much between now and then.

Democracy has not delivered much in Bangladesh. The people have made many sacrifices, while young, vibrant entrepreneurs have picked up a lot of the slack. We had our military forces almost emerge as an institution. Many of us once thought of them to be our “saviours.” But soon, we were told that it was not their job. Democracy must grow on its own in Bangladesh.

A senior military friend of mine recently gave me a book as a gift — Managing Defence in a Democracy, by Laura Cleary and Teri McConville. I have yet to read it though. Our political parties have their own definition of democracy, our judiciary is yet to make a firm stance on “where to intervene and where not,” our civil society is divided on the “spirit of liberation,” our teachers have been divided by political gains, and our economists are trying to figure out the right choice between development and democracy.

And many of us are trying to sort out if we are supposed to be too bothered about democracy at all.

Look at Malaysia, Indonesia, or even the Philippines. Do they possess a better democratic model? Let us all oil our own machines. Good luck to democracy.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


  1. Mr Mamun Rashid,
    Democracy can wait & be a subject of academic pursuit only, at universities & in tv talk shows. Talkers are not doers, you know it well. We have political parties who are keen to grab power & rule till kicked out. In the process, some lucky ones make money, buy properties abroad & get away. That’s the way it is for last 43 years & will be. So, keep smiling, my countrymen, just relax & enjoy, when r… is inevitable.

    For the common people, advise is : let’s oil our machines. “Ya nafsi, ya nafsi” Nije bachle baper naam. rgds.


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