In Anticipation of a Credible Election

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Published on December 6, 2023
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Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday:

Citizens are expressing apprehension about the approaching election scheduled for January 7, 2024. The discussion revolves around the prospects of the election being free, fair, and credible. Assurances have been given that this time, the election will indeed be credible, with the ruling party sharing the commitment to ensuring its integrity. The avoidance of any contentious debates on the election issue is emphasized, especially given the keen global scrutiny of the Bangladesh election by communities worldwide. The Election Commission (EC) is actively exercising caution to uphold the credibility of the impending electoral process.

Facing both domestic and international pressure regarding the election, the government is determined to ensure that the upcoming electoral process unfolds in a free, fair, and credible manner. With a dominant influence over the country's political landscape, the ruling party is inclined to secure victory without controversy. The uneasy position stemming from the 2018 election outcome motivates them to consolidate their power through both legal and moral means.

The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) persists in executing their strategy of organizing hartals, blockades, and arson attacks on vehicles as part of its steadfast resistance to the electoral process. The BNP has experienced a decline in momentum, unable to sustain the fervent political environment within the country. In every aspect, the ruling party has overshadowed and surpassed them.

With the BNP absenting from the electoral arena, numerous smaller parties have entered the contest alongside the Awami League and Jatiya Party. Given the prevailing domestic and international pressure for a free, fair, and credible election, the ruling party has adopted a strategic approach by permitting its leaders to run as independent candidates. The primary aim is to foster internal competition, thereby encouraging a higher voter turnout.

There is a perception that the absence of the BNP may lead to lower voter turnout in the upcoming election. The prolonged election boycotts by the BNP in previous years have contributed to a sense of apathy among voters regarding the exercise of their voting rights. Voter turnout in various local government elections has been consistently low.

Critics from the political opposition frequently leverage these lower voter turnout figures to castigate the government. In response, the ruling party has devised a strategy to permit rebel candidates to contest elections independently, anticipating that this approach will motivate voters to participate in the electoral process.

The crucial question now arises: Will permitting rebel candidates increase voter turnout rates? Alongside nominees from the Awami League and rebel candidates, contenders from the Jatiya Party and other political entities will further contribute to the festive atmosphere of the election. This dynamic mix is expected to elevate voter turnout rates, fostering a more participatory election—a crucial element for ensuring credibility.

The entire nation is anxiously anticipating a free, fair, and credible electoral process. The current EC demonstrates a high level of commitment to organizing a credible election. Since assuming their roles, both the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners have diligently worked towards establishing an environment conducive to a trustworthy electoral process in the country.

Under this EC’'s supervision, elections for numerous city corporations, pourashava (municipalities), and union parishads have transpired. Additionally, by-elections for several parliamentary constituencies have been conducted. Remarkably, there have been minimal allegations of rigging in these elections, with the exception of isolated cases. The nation still vividly remembers the incident during the Gaibandha by-election when the EC boldly intervened to halt the proceedings.

Certainly, there is room for criticism regarding the EC’s inability to persuade the BNP to participate in the election. However, it is essential to clarify that the present EC bears no responsibility for this matter. The commission extended multiple invitations to the BNP, urging them to engage in discussions and collaboratively find solutions to the existing challenges. Regrettably, these invitations were met with a lack of positive response from the BNP.

Furthermore, the BNP's insistence on the resignation of the current government and the establishment of a caretaker government for overseeing the election is a political matter outside the legitimate purview of the EC. Therefore, the Commission should not be censured for the BNP's decision to abstain from the election

As the country embarks on its electoral journey with the announcement of the election schedule, it is incumbent upon the authorities to establish an environment conducive to a free, fair, and credible election. Citizens anticipate that the electoral process will serve as a model of credibility, with responsible adherence to constitutional provisions. The efficacy of democratic consolidation is significantly contingent upon the EC's capacity to conduct a credible election.

In parallel, the government should wholeheartedly support the EC in its endeavors to orchestrate a credible election. Such collaboration not only enhances the EC's standing to all stakeholders but also contributes to the winning party garnering acclaim from the international community. This joint effort is vital for fostering both domestic and international confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

Writer: Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi

Courtesy: Daily Sun