Untangling the opposition’s baseless assault on Bangladesh’s Election

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Published on January 23, 2024
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Within the complex fabric of Bangladesh's political terrain, the aftermath of elections frequently manifests as a contentious arena of competing narratives. Regrettably, a troubling pattern has arisen in which individuals who are unsuccessful in elections seek to undermine the legitimacy of the voting system, both domestically and internationally. The election held on January 7th was not an exception, as opposition political groups in Bangladesh, who had refused to participate in the polls, launched a campaign to undermine the credibility of the electoral process. However, it is important to note that 41.8% of voters took part in an election that foreign observers considered free, fair, and credible.

It is distressing to see the opposition's efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the voting process, especially considering that both local and foreign observers have overwhelmingly expressed pleasure with the proceedings. The statistics are clear - a notable 41.8% of voters used their right to vote, suggesting a level of participation that should not be disregarded casually. Given the significant number of people that participated, characterizing the election as non-participatory appears inaccurate and undermines the democratic principles that Bangladesh cherishes.

Both domestic and foreign observers have repeated this opinion. Independent organizations evaluating the voting process have unanimously acknowledged it as unrestricted, just, and trustworthy. Their endorsement has significant influence and serves as evidence of the diligent endeavours undertaken by Bangladesh's Election Commission to ensure a fair and responsible election process. This honour should evoke a sense of national pride, indicating the nation's dedication to democratic principles and the enforcement of legal regulations.

Nevertheless, despite the widespread support, the opposition, particularly the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its associates have continued to cast doubt on the authenticity of the election. This gives rise to apprehensions over the broader ramifications of such activities on the democratic foundation of the country. Without participating in the election, casting doubt on the validity of the electoral process can have far-reaching effects beyond the current political situation. It has the potential to undermine public faith in democratic institutions.

The Election Commission's careful and systematic preparation and implementation of the electoral process warrant praise. The dedication to giving all candidates equal opportunities and maintaining the electoral process's honesty has been consistently apparent. The election outcome reveals that 55 sitting Members of Parliament, including many ministers, were unsuccessful in securing victory. However, the election has resulted in victory for 62 independent candidates. Hence, the opposition's story lacks a substantial foundation. However, this narrative has the potential to eclipse these accomplishments, creating an atmosphere of doubt that may last well beyond the conclusion of the election.

The opposition must acknowledge the importance of democratic procedures and institutions. In every democratic society, disagreements on policy and governance are inevitable. However, questioning the fundamental principles of the electoral process without substantial proof weakens the essence of democracy. The opposition should participate in constructive conversation instead of expressing scepticism, use democratic institutions to resolve issues and contribute to the nation's advancement.

Moreover, the global acknowledgement of Bangladesh's electoral procedure should instil a sense of assurance in the country. The favourable evaluation by international observers from different regions of the world highlights the trustworthiness and openness of the election. It is imperative for all individuals involved, regardless of their political associations, to recognize and accept the credibility of these evaluations.

Given the current era of worldwide interconnectivity, Bangladesh must avoid isolating itself from global perspectives. The international community's backing of the electoral process is both a commendation and a confirmation of the nation's dedication to democratic values. The opposition's rejection of this acknowledgement runs the risk of portraying Bangladesh as an exceptional case, diminishing its reputation within the international community.

The future of Bangladesh's path towards a secure and prosperous democracy depends on the development of a political culture that prioritizes the preservation and high regard for the integrity of elections. To accomplish this ambitious objective, all political groupings must demonstrate a unified dedication to upholding democratic ideals, promoting openness, and actively participating in honest and open discussions.

An essential element of this transformational process entails the opposition's proactive participation in changing the nation's political landscape. Instead of employing tactics that might potentially weaken the fundamental principles of democracy, the opposition should focus its efforts on making positive and productive contributions. This indicates a sincere endeavour to engage in significant discourse, providing different viewpoints, and proposing practical resolutions to the country's difficulties.

For Bangladesh to thrive as a strong democratic society, political discussions must go beyond confrontational methods. Authentic cooperation between governing and opposition parties is vital for establishing a consensus on pivotal matters, guaranteeing that the varied perspectives inside the country are acknowledged and valued. By engaging in such collaboration, the political sphere may transform into a forum for robust competition of ideas, the development of policies, and the nation's advancement.

Although it is customary for the defeated party to convey dissatisfaction in every election, it is imperative to maintain the credibility of the democratic procedure. The latest election in Bangladesh has received international recognition for its adherence to principles of freedom, fairness, and credibility. It is incumbent upon all political players, particularly the opposition, to uphold the democratic principles that serve as the nation's foundation. Bangladesh can only continue to evolve as a dynamic and healthy democracy through a shared commitment.

Writer: Dr Pranab Kumar Panday; Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi.

Courtesy: Bangladesh Post