AL and BNP win, people lose
HISTORY repeats itself. First time it was BNP that stage-managed 6th Parliamentary elections and bagged 100% seats. 49 candidates won uncontested. Voter turnout was the lowest ever, 26.5%. Opposition parties boycotted the election. BNP defended their one-sided move claiming obligation of constitution.
This time it is AL-led alliance that has grabbed almost all the seats, 153 candidates won uncontested, voter turnout should be the lowest. They used the same excuse of constitutional obligation. The two parties have changed roles.
After this election, people's disillusionment with politicians and elections may run deeper. It has been proved again that upholding of the Constitution does not necessarily confirm legitimacy in public perception.
In our polity, failure in managing democratic competition has become chronic. When Ershad's autocratic regime was toppled by people's uprising, BNP and AL came to a basic consensus that in a democratic set up no one will use killing and state controlled elections, rather winning free and fair election will be the legitimate means of gaining and continuing in state power. Both the parties came to power alternately, each for two five-year terms, but did nothing to consolidate the ground rule of peaceful transfer of power let alone empowerment of citizens and democratic practices. Formal democratic institutions are present here but kept dysfunctional. Over the years the scope of democratic competition has been narrowed down to electing either BNP or AL nominated candidates who depend more on money and muscle power than popular support. In fact, election itself holds very little promise to general people.
In this election, we have seen unprecedented violence. It exposes the bankruptcy of the major parties. AL feared to face people's verdict and BNP-Jamaat alliance feared that people would not come out to support their cause. So both of them resorted to violence and politicking panic. Panic is so strong that it creates an overwhelming feeling of anxiety that dominates or prevents any reason and logical thinking. In the present case, AL has succeeded in winning again and BNP has succeeded in disrupting election and restraining people from exercising their democratic right. Both of them have achieved their goal. We, the people, even cannot dare to ask where is our fundamental voting right, rather we are forced into thinking of BNP's and Jamaat's democratic right to be elected, and AL's pledge to hold war crimes trial so as to soothe their rage. The result of the 10th Parliamentary election is that AL, BNP and their respective alliances have won the game and we, general people, are the only losers.
The writer is Sr. Editorial Assistant, The Daily Star.
E-mail: [email protected]