POST TIME: 13 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Post-election expectations
Since Awami League has absolute majority in the new parliament, the party has a greater onus to create a healthy democratic opposition
Abdul Gaffar choudhury

Post-election expectations

A new era has started in Bangladesh. An unexpected election result has put Awami League in power again for the fourth time. Though it was expected that AL would win the electionwith a comfortable majority, but nobody thought BNP and Jamaat would be routed. Many observers thought that the allies between Dr. Kamal Hossain’s Unity Front with BNP-led 20 party Front would be a strong challenge for the party in power. But the result showed a surprising landslide victory for Awami Front. The victorious party also surprised the nation in forming the cabinet. Thirty-six old and experienced ministers were not included in the cabinet. New faces came in and ministers like Tofayel Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Nurul Islam Nahid could not be included in the ministry.

I say it as a beginning of a new era because the old political polarisation in Bangladesh will now be changing. After the birth of Bangladesh, politics was polarized into two sides. Though the pro-liberation forces obtained military victory in 1971, they could not defeat the anti-Liberation rightist forces politically. Within three and a half years after ourIndependence, the counter revolutionaries captured the power and started to destroy the fundamental principles of our Independence.

Since 1975, the anti-Liberation politics became more powerful and their opponents, mainly secular forces, were in retreat. It seemed that Bangladesh will be gradually tilted towards becoming a communal state as the progressive political forces, including Awami League, could not resist the rise of these fundamentalist forces in the country. They could not resist the rise of reactionary forces in Bangladesh due to their inner disunity and weaknesses. In this critical time, Shiekh Hasina came to lead Awami League and the rejuvenation of democratic and pro-Independence politics started. It was a long battle in which Hasina survived many attempts on her life. The people’s movement under her at last achieved the strength to oust the anti-people dictatorial regimes.

For a long time, this battle between two polarised camps was an unequal one. Democratic camps were weak and divided but the anti-people camp was united under the patronage of national and international vested interests. It is Sheikh Hasina’s skill and courage that the political map of Bangladesh has changed totally. Awami Front now won the election with a vast majority and the camp of anti-people forces were defeated decisively. In the new parliament, they got only seven seats and Awami League came to power for the fourth time with vast majority. The communal forces are now on the retreat. The support of a section of powerful elites and powerful persons like Dr. Kamal Hossain and Dr.Yunus, could not save the BNP-Jamaat alliance from total collapse.

The defeated camp is now trying to save their face by accusing the party in power for manipulating the election and by using administrative force against the opponent’s voters and supporters. But some neutral observers said, there maybe some irregularities and high-handedness of the governing party in the election, but that is not a great factor for opposition’s defeat. If election was 100% free and fair, the opposition would have still been defeated but only with a few more seats. They were defeated for their hesitance to join the election for a long time and due to their lack of leadership and organisation. Jamaat is a condemned political party and BNP hopes wrongly that Jamaat will be a helping factor in the election. That calculation has been proven wrong, and the young generation voted for anti-Jamaat camp in large numbers. Even if we analyse the women’s vote there is clear proof that women voters also did not like medieval anti-woman policy of Jamaat.

This time, BNP’s failure in the election is mainly for its association with Jamaat. In my opinion, we must welcome the election result of 2018. It destroyed a strong base of the demon of communalism and violent religious extremism and paved the way for building a democratic opposition which is very much necessary in democratic politics. Now, in the politics of Bangladesh post-election, a possibility of replacing the demon of fascism with the rise of democratic humanism can be seen. It may usher a new era of two-party democratic systemin Bangladesh. This will not be a fight between one democratic and one anti-people/anti-democratic forces. In future, there is hope for two democratic opponents to run for elections.

Since Awami League has absolute majority in the new parliament, they have a greater onus to create a healthy democratic opposition. Otherwise, one party dominance in politics, regardless of all its goodness, will ultimately not be able to uphold the democratic values. I congratulate the new members of the parliament. I hope they will understand the great responsibility that is now on their shoulders and that they will take lessons from the past mistakes of the last cabinet. Their task will be to fight the demon of corruption and to establish good governance from now on. The opposition members, though they arefew in number, should join the parliament for greater interest of democracy. Though they are a small minority, if the democratic process can continue, tomorrow they might get a big majority in future parliament.

During the tenure of Indira Gandhi in India, BJP had only two members in the Lok Sabha. Now they are in absolute majority. They did not boycott the parliament just because they were a tiny minority. Who can say that BNP-led front could not be a huge majority in next election? I also hope that ex ministers of the last cabinet, who have considerable experience in tackling nation’s problems, will be allowed by Sheikh Hasina to serve the country, to continue the ongoing development projects. I hope the prime minister will call them again to join her as she did the last time.

Friday, 11 January 2019. London.