AL's election pledges to………
A political party makes election promises to the people to win the polls. But the Awami League on Saturday unveiled a set of election pledges with no such an objective. 154 candidates have already been elected unopposed, setting a record in the world of parliamentary democracy. This has denied more than half of the 9.19 crore voters the rights to cast votes to choose their representatives.
AL looks all set to win a two-third majority in this election. Then why should it announce an election manifesto? What will the voters of 154 constituencies do with those promises as they have already been denied their voting rights? They have nothing to say about the AL election manifesto. Voters in the remaining 146 constituencies also have little to say as their votes do not matter much in determining the January 5 polling results. There is no strong candidate in those seats to challenge the contenders nominated by AL and its allies. Our election law is also peculiar—if one vote is cast then the candidate who gets it will be declared elected. So, the people, who are the owners of the all powers of the State, do not need to vote.
Yet Sheikh Hasina, in her party's election manifesto unveiled on Saturday, made promises and sought wholehearted support from the people. What will the AL do after it forms the government following the January 5 so-called polling? How will the AL-led government deliver on the new electoral pledges? Take some crucial promises related to good governance for discussion here.
In the manifesto called 'Bangladesh Moving Forward,' AL promised to build national consensus among all the political parties, professional bodies and civil society organisations to uphold democratic process and ensure unhindered development. The promise sounds good. But the reality is different. The crucial question is: will the government to be formed after the one-sided election be acceptable to the opposition parties that are boycotting the January 5 election, let alone the people and civil society organisations? Of course they will not welcome the new government. Then how will the new government build a national consensus? If opposition parties keep waging agitation against the government even after the election, will the new government take steps to build national consensus? Or will it try to build the national consensus sans the opposition parties and civil society organisations that have been opposing the January 5 polls?
AL, in the run up to the 2008 parliamentary polls, had made almost the same promises in its electoral manifesto 'A Charter for Change.' In the wake of pervasive confrontational culture in politics, it had promised to take steps to inculcate decency and tolerance in politics. AL had also pledged to formulate a code of conduct on consensus to improve the political culture. But in the past five years, the party did nothing in this regard. Politics has turned more confrontational than any time in past. So, it will not be easy for the AL-led new government to build a national consensus.
AL this time also promised to establish good governance, though many crucial pledges the party made before 2008 election remained unfulfilled. In the latest manifesto, AL promises to take necessary measures to make the parliament effective. It made a similar pledge before the 2008 election. But the parliament formed through the 2008 polls could not be effective thanks to boycott by the opposition MPs and the tendency of the treasury bench to use the House as a rubber stamp. In such a situation how will AL make the new parliament, which will be formed through a controversial election, effective?
AL in its electoral manifesto for the January 5 polls also promised to strengthen the local government system and the Anti-Corruption Commission. It had made similar promises before the 2008 polls. But after assuming office, the AL-led government did the opposite. It amended the upazila parishad law making MPs advisors to local government bodies with the power to meddle in their functions. In the last five years, the government did not allow upazila parishads to function independently. In spite of the electoral pledges the government did not hold elections to zila parishads. Rather, it appointed ruling party men as administrators of the parishads. It split the Dhaka City Corporation more than two years ago, but did not allow the Election Commission to hold the elections for it.
The government could not strengthen the fight against corruption, which it pledged to do in the 2008 polls. Wealth statements of prime minister, ministers, MPs and others were never made public in last five years though AL had promised to make them public every year. People came to know how many AL ministers and MPs amassed wealth in last five years when they submitted their statements to the Election Commission to contest the January 5 polls. Embarrassed by the disclosures, AL stopped the EC from publishing the wealth statements. Now, AL promises to enact laws to ensure accountability and transparency in the activities of MPs in and outside parliament.
AL, in 2008, had promised to keep members of law enforcement agencies beyond partisan influence. But in the last five years, the police administration has been politicised more. AL promised to keep the police and other law enforcement agencies beyond partisan interests a day before the opposition's 'March for Democracy.' But the way the government abused the police forces to foil the opposition's programme on Sunday is a glaring example of using the police forces for narrow partisan interests. This raises questions about the government's sincerity to honour its electoral pledges in future.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.