BNP in the city polls
BY all indications, it appears that the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has decided to participate in the Dhaka (North and South) and Chittagong City Corporations elections. We are heartened at the news. We strongly believe that the polls have opened up a new window of opportunity for the opposition alliance to take the civic issues to the masses and to sway public opinion in its favour. It also constitutes a test of the government's capacity to hold a participatory election. Furthermore, it essentially gives the BNP a genuine chance to come out of the vicious, self-destructive circle that has made the party a prisoner of its own contrivances.
However, for a credible election, a level playing field is a fundamental prerequisite. In this context we refer to a report published in a Bengali newspaper that there are as many as 950 cases pending against the 118 BNP-backed candidates, most of whom have gone into hiding since the party's January 5 movement had started. There is little doubt in public mind that many of these cases are politically motivated with the apprehension that unnecessary legal fetters may be placed on opponent candidates. This is indeed an important element to the issue of offering a level playing field to all the political actors involved.
There is a high stake in ensuring credibility of the elections, not only because of the importance of the representational character of the major elected bodies but also to bring the opponent on to the path of constitutional politics.