• Friday, December 19, 2014

Freedom in the air

Current Affairs

AN EARLY WARNING

Shakhawat Liton
Photo: Star File
Photo: Star File

Usually during the honeymoon period, a government enjoys huge popularity and receives maximum support from the people. No one criticises the government. It practically faces no opposition. Even though it has an obvious beginning, it has no obvious end. It may be a period of several months. It depends on the new government's performance through which it is able to continue enjoying public support.
The Sheikh Hasina-led government has assumed the office for a consecutive second term on January 12. Her government was supposed to be in its honeymoon period when the elections to 97 upazila parishads were held on February 19. But the outcome of the polls have proven that her government does not enjoy the kind of public support which a new government usually dose during the honeymoon period.
In the polls, her Awami League has failed to fare better than the BNP. The AL-blessed candidates have secured 34 chairman posts while those supported by the BNP won 41 chairman posts. The BNP has also fared better than the AL in vice-chairman posts. The BNP-favourites won 72 of 192 vice-chairman posts, including those reserved for women while their rivals backed by AL secured 63 vice-chairman posts. BNP favourites won all three posts of chairman and vice-chairman in 11 upazilas, while AL supporters emerged victorious in 10. This outcome clearly shows that the majority of electorates has cast votes against the AL and has opted for the BNP.
The Hasina-led government did not assume office for a second term with public support. The controversial January 5 election, which was held amid a boycott by the BNP-led alliance, has denied the people their voting rights. Political analyst and local government expert Prof Tofail Ahmed thinks people were aggrieved with the government. So, when they got the ballots in their hands, Prof Tofail argued, they cast those against the ruling party to show their grievances.
For the results, the BNP leaders cannot claim much credit. They did not do anything better in the last few years for which people would vote for them. Rather, the mindless violence waged by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami has tainted the image of the BNP. Yet, the BNP backed candidates did well in the first phase of the upazila elections only due to the negative votes. This dangerous voting pattern is a trademark of our elections since the restoration of democracy in 1990.  
To counter the BNP's claim that the government has lost public support to govern the country, some ruling AL leaders are arguing that upazila election is merely a local affair. And it is not appropriate to judge a national government taking into consideration the outcome of the upazila polls. The truth is that the BNP leaders and supporters in the grassroots level are highlighting some crucial national issues that have rattled the AL-led government over the last five years. The same strategy the BNP-backed candidates applied last year in five city corporations polls and succeeded in winning all the five mayoral posts by defeating their rivals backed by the AL with big margins. Like the past, this time the AL leaders are portraying the AL-led government successes in different sectors to counter the BNP men.
The ruling AL is worried about the election results and it has made some vigorous efforts to fight back in the next phases of the battle of ballots. Its seven organising secretaries are relentlessly working to pursue the party's dissident candidates to quit the electoral race in favour of party backed candidates. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on February 24 has entrusted Communications Minister Obaidul Quader to act as a coordinator in managing the rebel candidates. She has said that the rebels must be managed to avoid a further debacle in the local body election.

Photo: Star File
Photo: Star File

The AL has blamed the party rebels for the defeat of its candidates. It is true in some cases. Some more AL backed candidates would have won the ballots had the party rebels not caused troubles. But this is true also for the BNP. Some more BNP backed candidates would have won if there had been no party rebels in the race to split the party vote banks.
Both the AL and BNP high command and their grassroots are desperately trying to win the election in the next phases. The elections to around 480 upazila parishads will be over at the end of March. The government will have to suffer even more setbacks if the ruling AL backed candidate fail to fare well in the next phases of the polls.
The AL policymakers should take the outcomes of the upazila election as an early warning. They should reassess their strategy for the coming days. Otherwise, they may not find adequate time to fix the loopholes in the strategy.
Usually during the honeymoon period, a government enjoys huge popularity and receives maximum support from the people. No one criticises the government. It practically faces no opposition. Even though it has an obvious beginning, it has no obvious end. It may be a period of several months. It depends on the new government's performance through which it is able to continue enjoying public support.
The Sheikh Hasina-led government has assumed the office for a consecutive second term on January 12. Her government was supposed to be in its honeymoon period when the elections to 97 upazila parishads were held on February 19. But the outcome of the polls have proven that her government does not enjoy the kind of public support which a new government usually dose during the honeymoon period.
In the polls, her Awami League has failed to fare better than the BNP. The AL-blessed candidates have secured 34 chairman posts while those supported by the BNP won 41 chairman posts. The BNP has also fared better than the AL in vice-chairman posts. The BNP-favourites won 72 of 192 vice-chairman posts, including those reserved for women while their rivals backed by AL secured 63 vice-chairman posts. BNP favourites won all three posts of chairman and vice-chairman in 11 upazilas, while AL supporters emerged victorious in 10. This outcome clearly shows that the majority of electorates has cast votes against the AL and has opted for the BNP.
The Hasina-led government did not assume office for a second term with public support. The controversial January 5 election, which was held amid a boycott by the BNP-led alliance, has denied the people their voting rights. Political analyst and local government expert Prof Tofail Ahmed thinks people were aggrieved with the government. So, when they got the ballots in their hands, Prof Tofail argued, they cast those against the ruling party to show their grievances.
For the results, the BNP leaders cannot claim much credit. They did not do anything better in the last few years for which people would vote for them. Rather, the mindless violence waged by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami has tainted the image of the BNP. Yet, the BNP backed candidates did well in the first phase of the upazila elections only due to the negative votes. This dangerous voting pattern is a trademark of our elections since the restoration of democracy in 1990.  
To counter the BNP's claim that the government has lost public support to govern the country, some ruling AL leaders are arguing that upazila election is merely a local affair. And it is not appropriate to judge a national government taking into consideration the outcome of the upazila polls. The truth is that the BNP leaders and supporters in the grassroots level are highlighting some crucial national issues that have rattled the AL-led government over the last five years. The same strategy the BNP-backed candidates applied last year in five city corporations polls and succeeded in winning all the five mayoral posts by defeating their rivals backed by the AL with big margins. Like the past, this time the AL leaders are portraying the AL-led government successes in different sectors to counter the BNP men.
The ruling AL is worried about the election results and it has made some vigorous efforts to fight back in the next phases of the battle of ballots. Its seven organising secretaries are relentlessly working to pursue the party's dissident candidates to quit the electoral race in favour of party backed candidates. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on February 24 has entrusted Communications Minister Obaidul Quader to act as a coordinator in managing the rebel candidates. She has said that the rebels must be managed to avoid a further debacle in the local body election.
The AL has blamed the party rebels for the defeat of its candidates. It is true in some cases. Some more AL backed candidates would have won the ballots had the party rebels not caused troubles. But this is true also for the BNP. Some more BNP backed candidates would have won if there had been no party rebels in the race to split the party vote banks.
Both the AL and BNP high command and their grassroots are desperately trying to win the election in the next phases. The elections to around 480 upazila parishads will be over at the end of March. The government will have to suffer even more setbacks if the ruling AL backed candidate fail to fare well in the next phases of the polls.
The AL policymakers should take the outcomes of the upazila election as an early warning. They should reassess their strategy for the coming days. Otherwise, they may not find adequate time to fix the loopholes in the strategy.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2014

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