Was the long wait of almost three decades for the Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) election to be held worth it? The kind of election we witnessed yesterday for Ducsu posts is deeply disturbing. Sadly, the election was marred by many irregularities.
The Ducsu election was an opportunity to restore, if not the people's faith, at least the students' faith in the electoral system in this country. In the background of the national and mayoral elections, there are deep-seated reservations about the way elections have been held and the direction in which democracy is headed. In fact, the mayoral election was virtually boycotted by the voters and the upazila election didn't fare much better. However, in spite of the many violations of electoral laws, we were still nurturing some hope for Ducsu, and expecting a contested election where the general students would be allowed to exercise their democratic rights.
It is a pity that Dhaka University—which has a unique history of its own unmatched by that of any other educational institution in the country, if not the region—could not conduct an untainted election. Kuwait Maitree hall found stamped ballot paper and Rokeya Hall students found proof of hidden stash of ballots. These restricted materials are supposed to be kept in a secure manner, but were not. This certainly indicates a serious lacuna in the system which the DU authorities should answer instead of hiding behind the oft-repeated catchphrase of “isolated incidents”. There are also allegations of creating fake, long queues to obstruct the voting process.
Nobody can deny that the Ducsu election was riddled with irregularities. The question is: Why was it allowed to happen? Have irregularities become part and parcel of elections in this country?
Following the Ducsu election that ended with protests on campus, there will obviously be claims and counter-claims. But those notwithstanding, one can clearly see a pattern of impeding voters from exercising their right to suffrage. Even during Pakistan rule, under martial law rule, DU students exercised their right to choose, unhindered. What we saw yesterday will only result in further loss of credibility in the electoral system both at home and abroad. And what message does this send to the young people of this country? How are they supposed to learn about the importance of democratic principles when student bodies are usurped by certain quarters and educational institutions fail to ensure a system so that students' aspirations are reflected and their right to vote is protected?