Flouting people in electoral events to hurt democracy
Published : Tuesday, 4 December, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 573
Holding an election is not only about the Election Day. Rather it is a set of works conducted through a period of time involving several stakeholders like the political parties, their leaders and nominated candidates, the government, the election commission, the media, the law enforcers, the administrators, the election observers and most importantly the people. In a democratic country, the people are of main essence. But standing 26 days away from the 11th national election of Bangladesh, we are observing many movements for several weeks but astonishingly, we must feel that, the people are being most ignored in all phases.
When we talk about an election, it is all about electing people's representatives. Mass opinion is the most vital. Truly, though it is a call of the majority but an elected representative becomes the voice of all people. Here people need to know about the person whom they are going to vote for. They need to select from a pool of candidates analyzing their background, character, social work and future commitments. Without learning about the mentioned information, the people are not supposed to vote. Hence, the candidates must involve themselves in the community for a long period of time.
The prospective leaders must be the persons to whom the people turn to whenever they are in some type of problems or dilemma. The candidates should also be a proven man of character embedded with virtues like; honesty, dignity, integrity, farsightedness, neutrality, dedication, social commitment and most importantly people-orientation. Their previous work must justify their character and is supposed to help achieve people's trust. But to decide on whom the people will bestow upon their trust requires them to have their prospective leaders in front. But sadly with only 26 days remaining of the polls, the voters are yet to know what their choices are.
Despite the anticipation of declaring the nominated candidates a long ago, the top two political parties are yet to do that. Both Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have declared the list of their nominated candidates which can be termed as 'incomplete'. Especially BNP has nominated two to five candidates in most of the seats leaving it as a puzzle for their leaders, activists and also the people. Awami League also at few instances followed the same way. It feels like a haphazard situation in totality despite their claim of this being a political strategy.
On top of that, these top two parties of Bangladeshi politics are member of two alliances. For BNP it is more than one alliance - 20-Party Alliance and Jatiyo Oikyo Front. But it is yet very foggy if sharing of seats among the alliance members has been finalized or not. Considering the current context, it is going to be very hard to decide on the sharing of seats among alliance members as difficulty will arise to control the emotions of the leaders and activists of these top two parties.
From a layman's viewpoint, both Awami League and BNP are burdened with the involvement of so many alliance members. Awami League can easily conduct the election independently without any alliance but proceeding with more than 14 ally parties leaving around 60-65 seats for the alliance members. Many of these allies are not capable of winning a single seat independently except Jatiyo Party but will ride on the shoulders of Awami League. In spite of that, the ruling party leaders are going to respect their alliance's unity though yet their equation with the alliance members remains vague.
Similar is the situation of BNP. With inclusion in the newly formed Jatiyo Oikyo Front, BNP now has around 22 ally parties. Except for the banned Jamaat-e-Islam, no other party in their alliance is actually capable to win a seat by their own. But unrealistic numbers of seats were claimed by the ally members on several instances as reports were published in different media. Moreover, it is still doubtful if few of the top leaders of the Jatiyo Oikyo Front will be able to clinch away victory even under the banner and symbol of BNP.
Additionally, the leaders and activists of BNP are waiting eagerly to participate in the election after 12 years of wait and it is true at every corner of Bangladesh, at all 300 seats of national parliament. But seemingly 60-70 seats will be left for the ally parties of BNP also. Containing the emotions of leaders and activists in these seats will be a great challenge for both Awami League and BNP. Moreover, with several prospective candidates of these top two parties in almost all seats, the chaos exists inside the parties also.
Tangled in all these calculations, the candidates are not finalized from either Awami League-led alliance or Jatiyo Oikyo Front till now. As it was informed, due to political strategy the final candidate list is going to be exposed around Dec 9--around the time of issuing electoral symbol to the parties and candidates. But if the candidates are finalized 21 days before the election, then the voters will have very limited time to analyze their options. They will have to blindly follow the parties without considering the traits of the candidates.
Significantly, the two alliances formed by mainly Awami League and BNP was not actually based on the political ideals rather was based on a strategy to gain and retain power. Idealistically many of these parties differ from their ally parties even on the issue of secularism. Regardless of number of parties in these alliances, the big two parties are the unannounced leaders. If the smaller parties could participate in the elections individually, they could have presented their ideals individually to the people allowing voters a broader choice promoting a better democratic environment as well as reduced chaos between the leaders and activists of all parties of these alliances.
Except Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), no political parties have declared their election manifesto till now. It is expected that, the manifestos will be in sight during mid-Dec. But it is impossible to communicate the agendas stated in the election manifestos to the voters all around Bangladesh. Rather the candidates will be in fight to capture the field and to solicit their differences with the activists.
In a democracy, election manifesto is very important and the citizens are supposed to check if their dreams are embedded in those documents. Along with the party manifesto, a candidate from a particular constituency usually makes some commitments to the voters of his respective electoral area. But unfortunately the finally nominated candidates will not be able to make such moves this time due to time limitation. Then on which basis the voters will vote is unclear and unworthy of democratic environment.
Electoral campaigning is also very important in the political history of Bangladesh. Usually this campaign takes a very festive look. Through this campaign the candidates from different parties go to the doors of all voters. Thousands of cups of tea are consumed even at small tea stalls every day. The voters get the chance to talk to their favourite leaders regarding their demands and desires.
It is a set process actually which bridges the gaps between the leaders and the people. But with so many political strategies ongoing, this bonding is going to be missing this time and it will open the doors for money and muscle game surrounding the polls. As the candidates will not be able to reach the voters, they are expected to buy the votes which will certainly benefit a particular group and democracy will vanish.
Till now, analyzing all the events surrounding the upcoming election, certainly people or citizens or voters are completely missing from the scene. Except for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's effort to win the hearts of the young voters through a discussion session, there is no movement to convince the voters yet. No leaders are actually trying to reach the people rather they are busy in uniting their activists though voters should be the key. It is actually all about winning the trust and confidence of the people, about winning their hearts. Sadly, no people-oriented move was visible till now.
No one with any hope to be victorious is actually concerned about the people. It was found at different parts of the country that only with a month of the election; most of the potential candidates are still not at their constituency as they are in the capital to be a part of the strategy. These leaders are concerned about the election commission, the ultimate nomination, the law enforcers, the activists, the money, the muscle and everything else except the voters. We often talk about sustainable democracy but let alone sustainability, we are actually missing on democratic practices.
Though sounds a bit optimistic, we actually want the political parties to wrap up all their central activities as soon as possible and to return to the voters with their party manifesto, campaign team as they can do that after Dec 7 and their personalized commitments to their society, community, constituency and the people. There is no time to waste. It must be the voters who will vote and we hope they vote wisely keeping in mind the development and growth of Bangladesh as well as their citizen concerns. Our leaders must re-learn the fact that, democracy is indeed of the people, by the people and for the people.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)