AT long last, the nation heaved a sigh of relief. It is indeed good to note that, other things remaining the same, a new government will take over next year. The overdue election is scheduled to be held on December 29, after which an elected government will assume power.
But what are these "other things" that may not remain, as they ought to be? These "other things" have two sources of origin: First, the Election Commission (EC) and the government and second, the political parties. In the recent past, the EC allegedly failed to show its truly independent image. Its reliance on government directives made a mockery of its credibility in ensuring a free and fair election. Occasionally, it has also shifted from its earlier position. For example, the RPO stipulates that parties will choose candidates from a panel selected by the grassroots level of the organisations. To our knowledge, the BNP-Jamat alliance did not adhere to this norm, although it claimed to be in line with its own interpretations.
The EC had earlier declared that dissident candidates would not be allowed to join another party and get nomination, but that has happened. Till now, we are not aware of any actions taken by the EC for the deviations from ideal conditions. Therefore, there could be ample scope to suspect that the EC has been changing its goal-post to suit the interests of particular groups. We can only hope that it goes thus far, no further.
On the other hand, the government came under fire because of its baseless comment that the two major political parties had failed to reach a common stand on the election date. Reportedly, both the parties reacted sharply to this kind of reference. Besides, the position of the government with respect to lifting of emergency also created suspicion. We fail to understand why the government is delaying in announcing a date for withdrawal of emergency.
The political parties should see that the post-January 11 expectations of the people are upheld. What are the expectations? First, money and muscle should not dominate nominations. Honest, dedicated and educated candidates should be selected to contest the election.
Second, political parties should display a sense of mutual respect throughout the whole process of election. Of course, this norm should always be a part and parcel of their political game. Tolerance and tenacity should be the key to their pursuit of goals.
Third, political parties should have the culture of accepting defeat. After all, it is a game and only one side will win. The winner side should also ensure that magnanimity comes from victory.
Both, winner and loser, should work together in parliament in our fight for socio-economic and political emancipation of the people.
Fourth, the parliament should become the heart of all national debates and center of complaints. The nation no more wants streets to be the center of agitations.
Fifth, institutions like ACC, PSC, the judiciary etc., should be kept out of political interventions. They should be made more powerful, independent and credible. In the past, these institutions were allegedly ruined under the boots of the politically selected cadres. One of the greatest lessons of the recent past is that politicisation of institutions might bring in heavy trouble for the party that abhors such ideas.
And last but not the least, expectations about local government, especially upazilas. Rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling that political parties do not want local institutions to be strengthened due to immense opposition from MPs. This government wanted to hold upazila elections before the parliament election, but shifted it. Now it seems that the election will be held under a new political government. Suspicions loom large about holding of upazila election, based on past performance of political parties.
The expectation this time is that all these assumptions will prove to be incorrect and the new government will duly hold upazila election. One of the most important reasons for our backwardness -- or poverty -- is the lack of local voices in project planning, monitoring and implementation. This is an age of decentralisation of power, where local level institutions should have elected bodies so that the voices of the local people can be heard. No matter how many big projects we chalk out to help people in rural areas, only the presence of strong institutions at local level can yield fruit.
The expectations that we described above are not new, but have never been fulfilled. We hope that the political parties will come to their senses and deliver the goods as expected. The fulfillment of these expectations in right earnest will serve the political parties better, not to speak of the people After all, a modern society cannot live without politics and political parties. Politicians must realise that the time has come for abandoning the past mindset and ushering in of a new era.