Many of us are unaware of nuances in the political process
No, this is not going to be some kind of explainer on how the elections work in our country -- the emphasis in the title above is squarely on the word “do.”
I am not embarrassed to admit that I, a college-graduated employee of a major news organization, have had trouble in understanding exactly how the electoral process works in my own country.
On paper, it is nothing more than a convoluted mess of numbers, inconsistent usage of the words “seat” and “registration,” a veritable ocean of acronyms, and party and alliance names which sound increasingly daunting to anyone unfamiliar with a certain refined brand of Bangla.
Given this apparent opacity in our electoral process, is anyone really surprised by the general sense of apathy and ignorance that the average Bangladeshi exhibits towards the very notion of voting?
“Voting is your constitutional right,” retort the grey-beards when confronted by young whippersnappers about the pointlessness of it all -- as if a stern talking-to is all it takes to make a responsible citizen out of them -- when, in all likelihood, it’s not as much about teenage nihilism than it is about genuine confusion over what exactly constitutes as a constituency in Bangladesh, among numerous other parameters.
Is it an “upazila”? Is it a “thana”? What, exactly, are upazilas and thanas anyway?
Just go ahead and type in the exact same question I posed in my title in your search engine of choice -- other than the pathetic excuse of a Wikipedia entry titled “Elections in Bangladesh,” there is very little in the way of any concrete information, while the rest of the first page is all but dominated by an endless stream of news on election-time violence and thuggery.
It’s all so depressing.
Despite images of 1971 being weaved into pretty much every cloth and fibre of our society, and heated discussions over BNP and Awami League dominating every tea stall and dinner table in the country at any given moment, to say that we lack a culture of politics would be an understatement.
As a people, we are far from being politically aware, often choosing to make our judgments based on broad-stroke assumptions such as “vote BNP-Jamaat for religion” and “vote AL for economic development,” completely forgoing any of the nuances that each party brings to the table.
But all those broad strokes disappear in the polling booth, as a citizen’s ultimate decision on the future of their nation boils down to a single act, while still being none the wise about exactly what the difference is between a party represented by the image of a sickle, and another by that of a paddy.
The case for a strong electoral system has been made ad nauseam, but in the unlikely event of that ever occurring, it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect some better communication on the ins and outs of how the existing process works.
But exactly who can we expect to carry out that task? The ruling party? The Election Commission? Thanas and Upazilas?
It doesn’t get any less confusing, does it?
Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.