Cleaning up politics
CAMPAIGNING for local government elections have started. As anticipated, all major parties are participating, overtly or covertly. So far, party supported candidates have received no report of the use of party banners. Not only the major parties, but also alliance candidates are contesting. This is certainly a welcome decision by our political parties. This the opportunity for central leaders to repair their relationship with the grass-root level political leaders if they were hurt by the central leaders' negligence or indifference in the past. It may be considered as preparation for a successful national election scheduled to be held in December 2008. We may accept the observation of our army chief that the country is heading toward national election.
It is interesting to note that while the BNP chief is pleading for national election by October 2008 and local election thereafter, AL wants upazila election after the national as condition for participation in upazila election. It is abundantly clear that local government election after national election is extremely doubtful. In such an event the grass-root leaders will again be under direct or indirect pressure of central leaders. This will be wastage of the hard labour of the EC to generate spirit and enthusiasm for democracy at the lowest level. To the EC or the CTG the need of the people comes first.
Due to political inactivity for the last one and half years, EC's pressure for political reform, and detention of some senior leaders of major political parties under various charges, the parties are in pretty bad shape. The rainy season has started, and there will be two major Muslim festivals within October-December. Thus, the political parties seem to be under great pressure due to lack of direct contact with the electorate. Because of these problems the political parties are pleading for lifting of emergency.
As for political reform, major parties have not shown any appreciable interest so far. This may be due to apprehension of the incumbents that they would lose power, prestige and prominence. They appear to be reluctant to bring the talented ones to prominence. Some top leaders openly showed weakness for perpetuity of holding power through dynastic rule. These leaders never passed through the tribulations that great political leaders had, like Sheikh Mujibur Rahman since 1938 (when he was hardly 18 year old). As such, they could not be true leaders of the people.
We hope to see a true democratic election of local government on August 4. At this stage, it may not be advisable to lift emergency totally because even now we are not sure as to how many terrorists may become active once the emergency is lifted. To ensure maximum participation of voters in the election the political atmosphere will have to be kept as peaceful as possible.
Voters' list has been completed, as such the schedule of upazila election may be announced as soon as possible. With successful upazila election the EC and CTG will gain further strength. With completion of upazila election it will be clear as to how far the job of leveling the ground has been finished and how much the emergency can be relaxed. To be frank, successful upazila election will encourage participation of really honest, committed and competent people in adequate numbers in the national election.
The statements of some senior politicians who have realised that their devised political strategies might no longer work need not perturb the CTG. It is time that they bring the people nearer to themselves. No longer can they depend on the strength of muscle and money (at least fully). They should consider the CTG as a facilitator and not a competitor.
Finding the right kind of candidate (i.e. honest, committed, and competent), however, is not an easy task. The power of money has direct or indirect influence in our society. Our people are too poor and unorganised, and are directly or indirectly under the influence of the rich people. It may be unrealistic to think that they can be freed from the evil influence quickly. It needs the concerted effort of politicians, NGOs, media and the civil society to strengthen these people morally. It may not be a stupendous task. It all depends on the good intentions of the concerned.
Many of us are apprehending a return to the situation before 1/11. The EC is concerned on seeing that some contestants of questionable character have been able to obtain clearance of the EC to contest in the ensuing local election as their criminality has not yet been established. Compromise is needed in such cases. So long as a person cannot be barred legally we need not worry too much. As people are conscious, it would be difficult for those people to pass through the people's scrutiny. Let us have some faith in our poor but politically conscious people.
The formal boycott by BNP of the August 4 polls need not worry CTG because it has already achieved it objective. AL has proved to be wiser in this respect. Some analysts are of the opinion that AL is gainer on two counts, namely, remaining in the good book of CTG, and utilising the enthusiasm of the party's activists and supporters for participation in election.
On the other hand, BNP-JI front is more interested in the release of Khaleda and Nizami. It is pleading to CTG for medical treatment of Tarique and Arafat. The divided BNP, by refusing to participate in the dialogue unconditionally, may gain nothing. In this precarious situation, the party is not in a position for hard bargaining. The earlier it understands this harsh truth the better for its future.
Due to long absence of political activities, activists and supporters of political parties are in a fix. They do not receive any clear direction from the central command. They are even confused about the future of democracy in the country. In the selection of nominees for BNP and AL in the ensuing election it is reported that some problems emerged; these were subsequently sorted out.
Both the major parties are disheveled after 1/11. Signs are almost clear that our common people's attitude toward politicians has changed. No longer is simple charisma, or money or muscle power enough. The intrinsic quality of the contestants may be tested. What is important for the parties at this stage is reformation and reorganisation to make themselves more capable of contesting on a level ground for a free, fair and credible national election.