Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Keeping eyes on the December 30 general election in Bangladesh, international media, especially Indian is actively covering various pros and cons of the election. There even are speculations about the possible outcome, although in the past we have seen, pollster forecasts or media’s anticipation on the election results mostly had been proved wrong.
Amitabh Mathur in a report in prominent Indian news service ANI titled ‘Bangladesh elections: A rocky road ahead for all parties’ wrote: “Elections are being held in the background of unprecedented pressure on the parties and denial of legitimate democratic space for dissidents. Nomination papers of almost 300 BNP nominees were rejected during scrutiny by the Election Commission, 15 candidates have been arrested and over 30 attacked. Opposition candidates are being prevented from campaigning, their workers are being harassed and party offices set on fire…”
Does this report portray a picture of level playing field or minimum possibility of a free and fair election?
The ANI report further said, “Going by the manner in which elections are being conducted, the outcome may not be acceptable to the losing side. If it loses, AL [Awami League] with its street power will not allow any other government to function…”
Isn’t a very disturbing picture of Bangladesh’s political realities? The report clearly mentions, the ruling party will use its “street power” in paralyzing any government formed by its political opponent. Which means, AL will only accept the election result if it goes in its favour. If this is the fact, what signal the Western policymakers as well as other development partners of Bangladesh may get from it?
The ANI report has even hinted about Bangladesh’s ruling party using the administration in winning the election. It said, “…It faces anti incumbency on the count of intolerant arrogance, corruption and patronizing criminal elements. Yet it is expected to win largely on the count of its control over the administrative machinery, which it has unhesitatingly used in a partisan manner.”
What is the message of this sentence? Doesn’t it clearly prove – the administration in Bangladesh is rather compelled in working in favour of the ruling party? If the ruling party has been “unhesitatingly” using the administration in a “partisan manner” where is guarantee about those constitutional institutions of not being made compelled of abiding by the ruling party’s dictations?
It has to be noted that ANI is an esteemed news service and a large number of prominent newspapers in India and the world would re-publish its contents.
Suvojit Bagchi in an article titled ‘Why are Bangladesh election important’ to in front-ranking Indian daily The Hindu wrote: “With the general election slated for December 30, India wants a fair exercise in the neighboring country. It is more necessary, however, for Ms. Hasina to return to power,” the official admitted, for the Awami League steadfastly remains India’s best friend in the subcontinent.”
If it is “necessity” for India seeing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League win a third consecutive term, how can the largest democracy in the world talk about a free and fair election in Bangladesh? Is it not more reasonable to conclude – India will exert full influence in helping the ruling party in Bangladesh in continuing in power by any means?
The overall impression those Indian media are trying to give is – Awami League is the only party which can best serve Indian interest and for this reason, India will do everything possible on its part in keeping this party in power eternally. Moreover, the press section of the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s office has already committed a blunder by only allowing Indian media in getting exclusive interview of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They should have actually included some international media in it at least to give an impression – the interview was not any display of pro-India bias or it is Indian media that is showing lone interest in ensuring a third consecutive term for the ruling party.
May I remind the policymakers in the government – India is not the only development partner of Bangladesh. Instead the cooperation and assistance from the United States and China are even much bigger than those of India. On the other hand, United States is the biggest buyer of textile products from Bangladesh. Britain or the European Union is certainly not irrelevant to Bangladesh’s economic interests. The way Bangladesh policymakers are trying to exclusively depend on India, it may ultimately turn into counterproductive. The policymakers need to take the latest statement of the US Department of State very seriously.
My suggestions to the government would be to take some measures forthwith in easing the misunderstanding with the US administration and take necessary steps for welcoming the foreign observers in arriving in Bangladesh and monitor the December 30 general elections. Otherwise, the upcoming election will become controversial and the consequence of it may not be the same of the 2014 questioned election.
Hopefully the policymakers in Bangladesh won’t think – a country like Bangladesh can sustain without any support from the United States, Britain, European Union and China.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz