12:00 AM, December 04, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2012

News Analysis

Will the ghost of 2005 return?

Opposition's boycott of EC talks a reminder

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Shakhawat Liton

The BNP-led opposition parties' boycott of ongoing electoral talks has finally had the Election Commission bear the brunt of the confrontational culture in politics.
Their boycott also diminished the EC's hope to have a political consensus over some crucial electoral issues like redrawing the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.
Now it has been made clear that the current EC will not get any cooperation from the opposition parties until or unless the modalities regarding an election time government are specifically defined. The BNP, which rejected the appointment of the current EC, has of late been saying that before a resolution of the caretaker issue, it will not sit with the EC to discuss any electoral issue.
In the prevailing political situation, chances of a possibility of the widening gap between the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP getting minimised over the election time interim government are very slim.
So, the EC may have to proceed with its preparatory work for holding the next parliamentary election after a year without having any cooperation from the opposition parties, which is an alarming sign for it. Now there is also a possibility of heightened controversy over the EC's tasks as the BNP-led opposition parties have been questioning the neutrality and efficiency of the EC. Some BNP leaders have already spoken of a reconstitution of the EC after a resolution of the issue of an election time government.
The current situation reminds one of the scene in 2005 when the Justice MA Aziz-led EC was mired in political controversy. His appointment had not been accepted by then AL-led opposition parties, which also announced that free and fair polls would not be possible under the Aziz-led EC. Then the EC had invited over 100 political parties seeking their opinion on preparation of electoral rolls. The AL-led opposition parties boycotted the talks as they were demanding reforms in the EC and the caretaker government. At that time, the AL-led opposition vehemently opposed then retired chief Justice KM Hasan's leading the caretaker government to assist the EC in holding the polls in early 2007.
Under the leadership of Justice MA Aziz, the EC was finally caught in political controversy over its whimsical and farcical activities, including preparation of a fake voter list, which contributed largely to circumstances leading to the declaration of a state of emergency in January 2007 to avert a grave political turmoil.
Now, some political analysts have questioned whether BNP-led opposition parties' boycott of electoral talks with the EC is a sign of a beginning of a repetition of the incidents which took place in the times of the Aziz-led EC?
One thing is, however, clear: the prevailing situation will contribute to a deterioration of the image of the EC built by Shamsul Huda's team between 2007 and 2012.
Moreover, the current EC constituted in February this year could not live up to people's high expectations or match the standards set by Shamsul Huda, who was also lucky as he and his team did not have to face much political opposition since their appointments were made during the caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed.
And the then caretaker government backed by the army extended all-out support to the EC led by Huda to accomplish his mission. Huda thus had almost a smooth political landscape to carry out some gigantic tasks, including preparation of a voter list with photographs and introduction of political parties' registration with the EC through sweeping electoral reforms. And the electoral reforms brought about at the time also gave birth to a new electioneering culture in the country.
Incumbent CEC Kazi Rakibuddin and his team got a different political atmosphere. And the coming days may be more crucial for them. The past record may not be encouraging for them as so far three CECs have had to resign in the last one and half a decade following political parties' opposition.
The country's political landscape is so bitterly fractured and confrontational, so much so that it never allows institutions to grow independently. What's waiting for the current EC? Only time will say.

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