The attack on BNP mayoral aspirant Tabith Awal in the capital’s Gabtoli area yesterday, allegedly by supporters of a local ward councillor candidate backed by the ruling party, is a cause for concern and cannot be taken lightly in the run up to the upcoming polls.
It goes without saying that the right to conduct an electoral campaign free from obstructions, and specifically without the fear of bullying and physical violence, is an integral part of holding free and fair elections. In a democracy, it is the party in power that shoulders a higher share of the responsibility in creating a level playing field and ensuring that opposition candidates are not harassed by their supporters—no matter how low down the political food chain they are–while on the electoral trail.
In light of this, the attack on an opposition candidate is extremely worrying, to say the least, as well as the lack of response from the Awami League regarding the alleged perpetrators. In fact, certain members of the ruling party have already dismissed the incident as party infighting and hinted at an opposition “conspiracy” aimed at tainting the elections. This act of violence and the subsequent dodging of responsibility sets a bad precedent, especially in the current political atmosphere. It is not just one act, but a reinforcement of a mindset and culture of denial that can only contribute further to the suppression of opposition.
However, it is heartening to note that the Election Commission has directed the police to investigate this attack and provide a probe report within 48 hours. We ask that this issue be dealt with swiftly and seriously, and urgent action be taken to ensure that such incidents do not mar the remainder of the election campaign. We hope the government will speak out against such acts of violence and urge their supporters to act in a manner befitting the spirit of democracy and tolerance that should define the city corporation elections.
The upcoming polls are the nerve centre of the city’s political cerebrum, and with polling day just around the corner, it is imperative that the Election Commission demonstrate their commitment to ensuring free and fair elections and take a strong stance against any forms of political repression.