Election is a gala occasion that offers the electorate of a country to choose their leaders to run the country as their representatives. It makes up the nucleus of any genuine democratic process since mainstream political activism and operations revolve round this core arrangement in any legitimate democratic set-up. Dialogue is an inseparable part of any genuinely participatory democracy in ensuring a truly congenial atmosphere for holding a free, fair and participatory election. In absence of meaningful political dialogue among the parties concerned, especially in a belligerent situation like one in our country, the parameters and the spin-off effects of zero-dialogue may end up in widespread violence or even civil war. Only dialogue with good spirits on the negotiating table can help sail the country out of the absolutely squally political weather.
Rearranging and regrouping among different political parties and shades of opinions into alliances has long been traditionally an election phenomenon widely practiced in South Asian politics and especially in the politics of Bangladesh. Even before the independence of Bangladesh, the historic election of 1954 under Pakistani colonial rule is a landmark incident in the annals of Bangladesh’s history and the landslide victory of the “Jukta Front”, an election alliance of several political parties against the ruling Muslim League government, marks a great turning point in the subsequent political stream of events that, according to many political analysts, eventually culminated in the emergence of independent Bangladesh in 1971.A free and fair election has always been the best possible warranty for the continuation of the healthy democratic process. Once you opt for democracy or the rule of the people’s elected representatives instead of autocracy or authoritarianism, you have no other option but to turn on the switch of election. However, when it comes to hold a fair and participatory election in Bangladesh since after 1973, our country has had a track record of bitterness and violence. The elections of 1970 and 1973 were almost absolutely fair and no gross deviations were reported. But the election scenario of Bangladesh changed dramatically immediately after the political changeover in 1975 when a constitutional government was ousted ruthlessly at gunpoint.
This is the beginning of the unconstitutional black chapter in independent Bangladesh which eventually unleashed forces of anarchy introducing election engineering culture. Since 1975 political upheaval, almost all the elections including the elections of 1977, 1978, all elections under General Ershad regime and the elections up to 2014 have been marred more or less by clashes and violence and that the results were not beyond questions and controversy. Compared to these elections held under a party government, the elections arranged by care-taker government were relatively much fair and more acceptable to the international community.
However, the Magura bye-election triggered a mass violence spilling over ultimately the entire country and the result of which was too bitter for the ruling party to digest. However, irregularities and anomalies like the snatching of ballot boxes, vote centre capturing, fake voting, voting by proxy etc. have all been traditionally quite common manifestations familiar with the people of Bangladesh through all the years after 1975. Money, influence and muscles have always played a role in manipulating and manufacturing the election results in some ways or the other in Bangladesh.
With the boycotting of 2014 national election by the major opposition coalition, the 20-party Alliance, the election of 2014 was undeniably unilateral and non-participatory election. In the perspective of 2014 election, the coming election scheduled to be held at the end of 2018 is obviously the toughest ever challenge for Bangladesh. Once we want to arrange for a participatory, credible and legitimate election, each and every stakeholder in the democratic process will have to sit in dialogue without wasting any single day.
The present political scenario is horribly volatile with fiercely belligerent stands and stances of both the ruling bloc dictated by Awami League and the opposition bloc led by BNP. A national crisis like the election-related impasse can never be resolved through hostile war of words or noisy and frightening showdown on the streets. The voters are now more conscious than anytime before. They can assess the changing situation as well as the roles and the involvement of the political parties in the issues concerning the people with more mature and surer accuracy.
Living in the global village with globally open windows of information, today’s Bangladeshi voters are quite capable of making decisions on their fate. And what is more significant here to note that it is absolutely a legitimate constitutional right of the voters as declared and defined in the Constitution of Bangladesh. All parties concerned have to respect the rights of the real owners of this country and soften their hostile attitudes towards one another.For a workable and effective democracy to sustain uninterrupted, tolerance and compromising mindset of the political top brass is a must and any alternative of it is just bloodshed and violence and the worst may be even civil war. Political leaders of all parties must rise above everything else for the greater interest of national unity. The unavoidable requirement of well-functioning democracy is nothing but the nurturing of the mindset of shooting the political troubles in the negotiating table on the part of all concerned with the process.
Election and Alliances are inseparably related to each other since none of the political parties stands to win the election on its own. I smell no rats in any alliances since it is a constitutionally approved right to form political party or alliance and what is more important here is the fact that being a votary of democracy, I staunchly believe that it is the people, the electorate, who will ultimately decide as to who are working for whom and who are working against whom. Let us allow the enlisted players to play the game. The whistle-blowing role of the Election Commission if not played properly while referring the game it will create a further crisis that may eventually lead to manufactured results of the election.
The inner urge of the overwhelming majority of the Bangladeshi voters obviously opts for peace and tranquillity. They genuinely want to vote in a festive mood in an atmosphere free from all fears and panic. In line with our tradition in local government elections, let us all make national election as the biggest social festival and it is only possible through meaningful dialogues or discussions among all participating parties concerned.
The writer is an Assistant Professor
of English, Bogura Cantonment
Public School & College.