Thursday, May 30, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Analysis: Two steps forward, two steps back

Update : 21 Nov 2016, 06:05 PM

In an almost immediate briefing, the newly-inducted Awami League general secretary, Obaidul Quader, dismissed the BNP proposal on several grounds, calling it "meaningless".

While there have been calls for the two main parties to enter into a dialogue, the ruling party has so far not given any such hint that it will.

Khaleda's elaborate two-step method first requires the formation of a five-member "search committee" manned by honest, well respected, unbiased and non-partisan members.

The proposed committee would be headed by a former chief justice and consist of a retired Appellate Division judge, a retired secretary, a former university professor and a woman - although no mention is made as to whether she should be in service or retired.

Also read- Khaleda: Army should be given magisterial powers during polls

But the committee would be limited to performing clerical work quite unbecoming of the stature of its members; all it is meant to do is sift through a list of names and arrive at a final set of candidates that is least likely to be opposed by either political camp. Both the search committee and the five-member Election Commission, which Khaleda says will oversee the next national election under a “neutral election time government”, would be decided upon through a similar exercise, according to her proposal.

Political parties are to propose two names for each position. Search committee members would be decided by the president and he would thereafter hand over the names of proposed election commissioners to the search committee for selection.

But it is in defining the criteria of parties eligible to participate that former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is most keen.

She insists that eligible parties should include all those that have been to parliament since the Liberation War. This would ensure that the parties of the BNP-led coalition, which despite being the main political opposition are currently out of parliament having boycotted the last general election, would be able to submit names for the search committee as well as the Election Commission.

A hollow plan?

The BNP chief had alternatively suggested that the president hold consultations with representatives of the two main political camps – the Awami League-led alliance and the BNP-led alliance.

But Khaleda’s proposals for an appointed, neutral and consensually acceptable Election Commission is mere rhetoric since the method, were it to be adopted, would ensure both a politically driven search committee and a divided Election Commission.

Also read- Awami League: Khaleda’s formula pointless

A similar process was adopted for the appointment of Caretaker Government advisers under Iajuddin Ahmed in 2006 wherein the two political camps made recommendations that resulted in 10 advisers locked in a perpetual stalemate. The recurrence of such a rift would not be welcome.

If adopted, Khaleda’s proposal would result in a bipartisan search committee and, worse that that, a bipartisan Election Commission which is unlikely to be "neutral."

An Election Commission which is all powerful during polls would be a hostage to compromise and political expediency at best, and stalemate at worst.

Whether or not her proposal is accepted, even a token consultation with the ruling party would bring welcome relief from the politics of attrition, and would gain Khaleda’s BNP some legitimacy as a political opponent – an idea the ruling Awami League has so far brushed aside.

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