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AL's complex electoral strategy poses challenges and pitfalls

Published : Tuesday, 5 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 592

AL's complex electoral strategy poses challenges and pitfalls

AL's complex electoral strategy poses challenges and pitfalls

In his renowned Gettysburg Address delivered in 1863, Abraham Lincoln articulated democracy as "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Essentially, a democratic government comprises representatives chosen freely by the populace to serve the entire nation. Such a government, established with the consent of the people and dedicated to serving their interests, is anticipated to endure indefinitely.

Our Liberation War was fought to secure the right to self-determination, and democracy was consequently enshrined as a foundational principle in our state policy. Article 11 of our Constitution stipulates that "The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms, and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person, shall be guaranteed, and in which effective participation by the people through their elected representatives in administration at all levels shall be ensured." Additionally, Article 59 mandates the rule of people's representatives at all administrative levels to establish a comprehensive democratic system.

A fundamental requirement of a democratic polity is the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections, serving as the mechanism to form a government with the people's consent.

However, the true measure of a democratic government lies in its actions between two elections. For an authentic democratic system, the elected government must uphold citizens' fundamental political and civil rights, respect basic human rights, ensure the rule of law and social justice, practice transparency and accountability, and facilitate the effective participation of the people in the state's affairs.

The political landscape in Bangladesh is heating up as the country gears up for the 12th Parliament elections scheduled for January 7, according to the announcement by the Election Commission on November 16.

Preparations for the elections began earlier, with the notable absence of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party. The BNP's decision not to participate in the elections has set the stage for a different electoral dynamic, allowing the ruling Awami League (AL) more room to consolidate its position. The ruling party seems to be navigating a unique challenge - ensuring a competitive election without facing internal discord.

The Awami League's decision to allow a significant number of rival candidates from within its own ranks to contest the elections is a noteworthy departure from its usual practice of strict party discipline. This strategic move is aimed at portraying an image of a vibrant and competitive democratic process, especially in the absence of a formidable opposition.

By permitting a multitude of candidates to vie for seats, the Awami League aims to send a message that the elections are open and competitive, despite the absence of the BNP. The party leadership appears to be attempting to demonstrate that it is confident in winning public support even in a multi-candidate scenario.

While the Awami League cannot openly endorse rival candidates, there seems to be an indication that some leniency may be shown, particularly to locally popular figures and those not directly challenging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or other top leaders. The party's goal is to maintain an appearance of inclusivity without compromising its stronghold in crucial constituencies.

The complexity of the Awami League's strategy becomes evident when considering the concerns over potential damage to allies and like-minded parties. The balancing act involves accommodating allies' top candidates while showing leeway to independent candidates to increase voter turnout. The delicate dance between party loyalty and the broader electoral strategy presents challenges and potential pitfalls.

The Awami League's shift in approach also raises questions about the possible ramifications within the party. While the leadership emphasizes that those contesting independently will face expulsion, the nuanced approach and selective leniency may lead to internal tensions and debates about party discipline.

The political landscape is marked by a combination of economic showcase projects, controversial legislative changes, and heightened international scrutiny. The absence of the BNP in the electoral fray, coupled with suspicions of foreign interference, creates an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty. The focus on political maneuvering and street-level politics, rather than addressing concerns about democratic processes, highlights the challenges facing Bangladesh in ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process. The global community will be closely watching the developments as the nation moves closer to the polling day.

As the Awami League embarks on this uncharted electoral strategy, it remains to be seen how the delicate balancing act will play out. The party's attempt to present a competitive election, keep allies satisfied, and maintain internal cohesion is a high-stake gamble. The forthcoming weeks leading up to the election will likely reveal the effectiveness of this approach and whether it achieves the desired outcome of a credible, inclusive, and competitive electoral process. As the nation watches, the success or failure of this strategy will have far-reaching implications for the political landscape in Bangladesh.
The writer is a Sub-editor, The Daily Observer

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