Thursday, 9 December, 2021

Will polls ever be peaceful?

Will polls ever be peaceful?

It is deeply disturbing and worrisome that elections are getting increasingly violent. We have repeatedly written in this column to make elections fair and peaceful, but sadly the opposite is happening as money and muscle continue to rule politics. In a democratic country political rivalry is a form of art where candidates show off their leadership skills, vision and wits to attract supporters. But we seem to have done away with the civilized manner and are going medieval.

For example, the second-phase of Union Parishad elections are still 12 days away, and yet 7 people have already been killed in various parts of the country in clashes between supporters of rival candidates. Regrettably, most of the clashes took place among supporters of the rival candidates of ruling Awami League.

Local government elections are scheduled to be held in nearly 2,000 Union Parishads in two phases across the country in November. Although the responsibility to maintain law and order during the polls falls on the Election Commission and law enforcement agencies, Awami League has a big role to play as the ruling party, because it has to ensure that elections are not becoming a farce. Moreover, since most of the clashes are taking place due to intra-party feud, we think it is a moment for the AL for soul-searching.

Politically Awami League is now in a stronger position than its rivals. The opposition parties apparently lack wherewithal to put forward any real challenge to the ruling party by drumming up public support. But Awami League can hardly enjoy its heydays because when there is literally no challenge from opposition parties, the party is pitted against itself – AL vs AL.

So, it is high time for the ruling party to put its house in order. With parliamentary elections just two years away, Awami League can hardly afford such a widespread chasm and violence among party rank and files.

However, it is not only a case of putting AL’s house in order, but also a matter of strengthening the country’s democratic practices, maintaining law and order, saving lives, and keeping people’s confidence in democratic process. Elections are held so that the people can exercise their franchise in electing their leaders. Elections must not claim lives and present the people a bitter experience of violence and fraud.