Much has been said and written about our upcoming 10th parliamentary election. This election is boycotted by the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance and many other parties. Our civil society members and political parties opposing this election will not bring any good results.
Our friend states, development partners, and even the UN are not accepting this “one party” election. They want a free and fair election, but the government is determined to go ahead with the national election at any cost, where 153 candidates have already been elected unopposed.
About 52% of the voters have been denied their right to elect their representatives to parliament, and the other half has been left with no choice but to vote for the one or two candidates left in the race. Is this not a mockery of democracy?
The whole country is under siege from opposition parties, police, BGB and RAB. Our economy is hit hard by strikes and blockades. This continued unrest will create social instability and break down the law and order situation further.
Ordinary people can understand easily that the January 5 voterless election will not solve any of the existing problems. It will not stop the strikes, blockades, street violence or the destruction of property. It will not stop the killings and the burning. But the government is going ahead with the election.
The AL is already alienated at home and abroad for this clever trick. No major political party faced these situations before in Bangladesh’s political history. The situation is bizarre, dangerous, and inexplicable. The AL has successfully left the BNP and the other major parties out of the election.
They also failed to rope in the “third-in-line” Jatiya Party (JP), which it thought would be its partner in the political gambit. The AL becomes even more alienated as 153 candidates are elected without a single vote.
So, we are going to have a non-representative parliament. Our people love to vote because it is the only opportunity they get to have some say in state affairs. Now they know they don’t even have that right. In the international arena, the situation is no better.
All countries except India have already made it known that they have no reason to consider this election a free, fair, and participatory one. The US, Russia, and EU have declared that they will not send any election observers to the upcoming election in Bangladesh.
Diplomats of western countries feel the election is nonsense. They are moving to break the deadlock, but it seems that no one is hearing them. Many diplomats wonder on what level their governments would engage with the new government if formed through such a farcical election. This will have grave implications for the country’s development.
In this tumultuous situation, our eminent citizens, on December 29, called on the government to defer the January 5 parliamentary election to make it participatory and credible. Deferral of such an election is the main task now in order to hold dialogue among the major political parties and resolve the ongoing crisis.
Renowned jurist Rafiqul Haque said the January 5 polls could be deferred up to 90 days even after the dissolution of the ninth parliament within the constitutional framework. As per the constitution, parliament members must be directly elected by the people, he pointed out, but 153 candidates have already been elected uncontested to the tenth parliament.
There is no constitutional bar to holding the election within 90 days after the dissolution of the current parliament, said Asif Nazrul, professor of law at Dhaka University. Elections have to be inclusive for the legitimacy of a democratic government, said Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD.
Deferment of such a meaningless election is now a demand of the majority of the people, said former adviser to a caretaker government Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman. Prof Anisuzzaman, a supernumerary professor at Dhaka University, said bloody violence, arson, and sabotage in the name of political programs have devastated public life. But our PM blasted them in her response.
She said: “The election process has reached such a stage when it can be stopped only by adopting unconstitutional means. I don’t know why the eminent citizens are calling for taking the abnormal and unconstitutional path.”
Is the AL realising that the oldest political party of the country with a long tradition of struggle for democracy is becoming isolated from its own arena? Is that not going to put a permanent blemish on them?
The question is: How long will this government last, and at what cost? What will they achieve with this election?