A mockery scheduled for January 5 is at the threshold of the country amidst the ongoing country-wide violence, the house arrest of BNP chief Khaleda Zia, and the capturing of the opposition’s top leaders. The constitutional but illegitimate national election is a great travesty in which 153 MPs out of 300 have been elected unopposed.
The unethical general election will not bring any positive change to the country’s governance and democracy, nor will it add any new feather on the ruling Awami League’s cap. The election, where major political parties including BNP, won’t be participatory at all since both the Election Commission and the ruling party have failed to ensure a level playing field for all.
The country’s politics has already witnessed bloodshed, prolonged violence, and numerous killings centering the caretaker government system (CTG).
On June 30, 2011, the ruling party trashed the caretaker government provision by amending the constitution through a verdict of the Supreme Court. The court deemed the CTG provision void, adding a suggestion to the government that they hold the next two general elections under the provision. But the ruling party and its allies, who secured two-thirds of the votes in the ninth parliament, banned the provision without consulting the constitution experts and opposition lawmakers, or arranging any referendum.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s stubbornness to hold the 10th parliamentary election under her regime left her and her government alienated at home and abroad, though she said the AL government amended the constitution to uphold people’s right to vote.
Over 300 opposition activists, including law enforcers, children, and women, were killed within a year while demanding the restoration of the CTG, and the death toll is increasing. The opposition imposed several bouts of blockades and hartals, carried out rampage, and engaged in arson and violence. And it hasn’t stopped.
Now comes the question of who will be benefited from the election. Who will be served by the polls? Is it Bangladesh, is it democracy, or is it Awami League itself? Maybe no one will be benefited. And the aftermath of the polls an unelected parliament will never have the legitimacy that comes from a fully contested election.
If Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not stop the January 5 elections, surely it will cause more death and violence in the coming days and further hurt an already damaged economy. It will damage the image and reputation of Bangladesh. The violence will significantly affect our RMG sector. The continued unrest will create social instability and prolong people’s agony, bringing us closer to becoming a failed state.
Through this election, we will get an autocratic regime where no opposition party will stay, no power can challenge the government’s vendetta. In short, we will have a regime that represses democracy despite the PM’s terming the polls a “restoration of people’s voting rights.”
Moreover, when we see that about 50 million voters out of a total of 91.9 million have been deprived of their voting rights, and that as many as 153 candidates have been elected uncontested, people’s faith in democracy goes astray.
After the 1991 election, the CTG was applauded by the people as an election-time government, but the ninth parliament banned the provision causing the on-going political bickering. The task of deciding which type of democracy or representative system is best for this country is yet to be set.
Despite repeated urging from the country’s eminent citizens, teachers, lawyers and the country’s development partners, including World Bank, EU, and Japan, to ensure a participatory national election, the AL-led government paid no attention to them, thereby alienating the country internationally.
News reports, editorials, and op-eds published in local and international dailies, periodicals, magazines, and wires expressed their concerns about the country’s future. The US based magazine, Foreign Policy, put our country’s name under the banner “Next year’s War” whereas The Economist used the sub-heading, “The ruling party will win Bangladesh’s election. The country will lose,” to illustrate the country’s fate.
However, the incumbent government has lost all of its foreign friends, except India, for its oppression of the opposition, continuous human rights violations, forced disappearances, judicial killings, and dividing the people into pro and anti-liberation forces.
The spirit of our liberation war will be dishonoured by such one-sided polls. We urge the prime minister to stop this mockery which disregards the people’s voting rights and the fate of millions.