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Charade of a fraudulent fixed election

There is a price to pay in this sort of unacceptable and loathsome action. Sooner or later the perpetrators will be caught in their own scheme to hoodwink the people. That is the lesson of history. Unfortunately, the common people suffer and pay a steep price in life and belongings before that happens, writes Omar Khasru

IN THE ensuing January 5, 2014 dubious and controversial, exclusive and unilateral elections, so far 154 candidates have been elected unopposed. A vast majority of these privileged aspirants belong to the ruling Awami League (almost 130). Even before a single vote has been cast, the Awami League and allies have already gained parliamentary majority to form the next government.
Some of such conveniently selected cushy candidates belong to parties that may charitably be described as Awami League toadies and cronies, such as the fringe parties of Rashed Khan Menon, Anwar Hossain Manju and Hasanul Haq Inu. They cannot resist the temptation of power, influence, authority and associated bounty. There is a score of unopposed members from HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party, the discussion and analysis of which is time- and space-consuming, intricate and a bit distasteful.
According to press reports, out of 9.2 crore registered voters, 4.9 crore voters can now stay home on election day because, whether they like it or not, their parliamentary representatives have already been selected through a shady, sneaky and sly arrangement. That leaves the remaining 4.3 crore voters to elect their members of parliament on election date.
What is obvious and immensely appalling is that the voters are least important in the whole underhanded and tawdry Alice in Wonderland process. They have very little say. The will of the Awami League is the most crucial determining factor in the wheeling-and-dealing election engineering and crude sharing of 154 seats.
According to Election Commission information, all members in five districts have already been elected unimpeded. Out of the remaining 59 districts, all but one seat has already been assigned unopposed in 17 districts and there will be contest in only two seats each in 18 districts (Bangladesh Protidin, December 17).
The candidates for the 146 seats that the voters will have a chance to vote are made up of the ‘usual suspects’, to quote a term in the classic movie, Casablanca. The paltry 540 candidates mostly belong to the Awami League and others from Ershad, Manju, Inu and Menon parties. Apparently 85 of Ershad’s Jatiya Party contenders in these seats did not or failed to withdraw despite strict instructions. There are some independent contenders as well.
On the glorious victory day of 2013 there have been two world records accomplished in Bangladesh. One of these, to be included in the Guinness book of records, is the world’s largest human national flag that was fashioned at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka, with 27,117 volunteers helping to create the Bangladesh flag. Another possibly was the national anthem sung simultaneously by over four hundred thousand people.
The sordid record is 154 parliamentary members, more than half of a total of 300, getting elected unopposed. This is not something to celebrate and be proud of. It is something to be ashamed of and totally embarrassed about. Those who foisted this sleazy and disgraceful marker on us need to be held liable and accountable. They have no right to make this country a laughing stock elsewhere.
This, however, is not the first time that such a devious and sleazy, comfy and cosy election attempt has been undertaken in this land. It happened once before in the not-too-distant past. This is very much like the governor Malek election during the 1971 liberation war. Mr Malek was installed as the governor of the then East Pakistan by Pakistani occupation forces to give a civilian façade to the regime and placate negative world opinion.
A charade of an election was attempted, participated by pro-Pakistani, detested peripheral parties with no popular support. Since much of the territory had very tenuous Pakistani control, the marginal parties, at the behest of Pakistani rulers, started dividing up most seats to avoid any hazardous contest. Before the farce could be completed, the country was liberated and it was spared of the infantile hoax.
Getting elected unopposed has tangible rewards. The candidate need not spend time and money on campaigning, worries and doubts of getting elected are removed and it is a welcome escape from the burden and fear of visiting the constituency to confront the wrath of electorates because many candidates of the ruling alliance flouted and abused power and influence over the past five years. Like the 1971 attempted election, for many nominees it has become perilous to meet their electorates.
The Awami League, the oldest political party of the country with significant history and legacy of struggle for democratic rights, has now degraded itself to follow the notorious and reprehensible examples of the 1971 Pakistan occupation force-imposed Malek election fraud and the February 1996 BNP voter-less election to attempt to hold an all-time sham and travesty of an election simply to hold on to power by hook or by crook.
This is truly disgraceful and an insult to the collective emotion and intellect of conscious citizens of this country. The party is hell-bent to impose this nefarious act on people because its popularity has declined precipitously due to five years of misrule and corruption. If a free and fair election is held, the party will be thrown out of power. So, the autocratic government has decided to impose its will in an abominable manner.
A most willing and compliant collaborator in this unholy and unsavoury attempted poll is the Election Commission. The feckless, gutless and dreadful Election Commission is all set to hold the January 5 elections, completely uncaring and unconcerned about the death, danger and destruction.
The commission has exhibited deafening silence with majority of the parliamentary seats deceitfully divided among the ruling coalition. Like Gandhi’s three monkeys, the commission sees to evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil when it comes to the ruling alliance, even if the country goes to hell in a hand basket.
One would expect that members of this statutory body will care about the country and people. Some would rise to the occasion and be intrepid witnesses of history in protecting the image of the august body. The hope is that they would free themselves from the pressure and influence of ruling coterie and show righteous resentment. They would heed to the call of duty. If not anything else, some would resign in disgust. No such courage or rectitude from even one member has been displayed so far. What a pity!
The Awami League, a traditional party, has many professional politicians, veteran parliamentarians and those who toiled and suffered to achieve and uphold the legitimate rights of the people. Is there not one honourable, ethical, bold and rebellious person in the party to proclaim that enough is enough and insist that the party abandon the attempt to hold the mockery of an election? There may be a few but they perhaps are busy to get elected unopposed and reside in the cosy shelter of Dhaka city, far from their livid electorates.
There is a price to pay in this sort of unacceptable and loathsome action. Sooner or later the perpetrators will be caught in their own scheme to hoodwink the people. That is the lesson of history. Unfortunately, the common people suffer and pay a steep price in life and belongings before that happens.
The envoys of European Union countries, in an unprecedented action to show displeasure at arbitrary and arrogant government actions, refused to participate in the Victory Day ritual of visiting the martyr’s monument. This may seem like disrespect to the memories of the martyrs but was essentially an insult and rebuff to government actions.
The government was taken aback with such a palpable show of disapproval. The EU ambassadors had also decided to boycott the president’s Victory Day reception. The foreign office sprang into action, lobbied hard, wrote letters expressing its anger and despair. It was able to persuade a few envoys to attend the reception.
Many more such actions may be in the offing, especially since the head of the government here has brazenly announced that she does not care for foreign phone calls or advice. Prudent advice and counsel have fallen on deaf ears. None of the reaction will be pleasing to the government. Some may be tough and awkward.
That is no comfort for the common people. We do not want foreign snubs and loss of reputation. We want a normal, peaceful and serene life. For now, most people want a peaceful, impartial and credible election where conditions are ideal for all major political parties to participate. The voters want to vote freely and elect their representatives according to their preference and not be forced fed through a fly by night type of crafty process.
It is not too much to ask in a civilised and democratic country.
Omar Khasru is a former university administrator who writes on contemporary political and
social issues.

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Charade of a fraudulent fixed election

IN THE ensuing January 5, 2014 dubious and controversial, exclusive and unilateral elections, so far 154 candidates have been elected unopposed. A vast majority of these privileged aspirants belong to the ruling Awami League (almost 130). Full story
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