The anticipation among the citizens of Bangladesh is palpable as the eagerly awaited election on January 7, 2024, approaches. The prevailing political landscape strongly suggests the likelihood of the Awami League (AL) clinching another term in office, particularly with the notable absence of the BNP in the electoral race. While various political parties have chosen to participate in the upcoming election, it is widely expected that candidates from the ruling party will dominate and secure a majority of the seats.
An intriguing development has emerged within the ruling party, as they have announced that rebel candidates within the party will be permitted to run as independents in the upcoming election. This strategic maneuver is aimed at fostering competitiveness and ensuring a substantial voter turnout. Moreover, it provides the ruling party with an opportunity to identify the most popular candidates through the electoral process.
While the party has demonstrated a level of maturity by not endorsing approximately 70 Members of Parliament, some candidates find themselves marginalized as they did not secure the party's official nomination. Consequently, these candidates now have the chance to showcase their popularity directly through the election. However, the decision to allow such independent candidacies may also contribute to prolonged internal divisions and polarization within the party. As the political landscape appears to be favoring the ruling party, a pertinent question arises: What are the expectations of the citizens as they eagerly await the formation of a new government?
Foremost among the expectations of the citizens of Bangladesh is a demand for political stability and sustained economic growth. Despite commendable progress in economic development in recent years, voters are keenly awaiting the implementation of new government policies that will further accelerate economic growth and ensure sustainability. The prevailing political instability, characterized by disruptive events such as hartals and blockades, has been a significant impediment to economic progress.
These political disturbances not only disrupt the daily lives and earnings of the citizens but also impede industrial productivity, creating challenges for business owners to sustain their operations. Consequently, there is a collective desire among the people for an end to political instability in the country. Recognizing the pivotal role of a stable business environment, citizens emphasize that the government should prioritize creating conditions conducive to business growth. This, in turn, would allow industries to maintain their momentum, ensuring employment opportunities for the unemployed population. In essence, the citizens of Bangladesh are calling for a stable political climate that fosters a conducive business environment, enabling industries to flourish and, in turn, providing a solution to the unemployment challenge.
A critical issue that has significantly impacted the lives and livelihoods of citizens is the relentless surge in commodity prices. Undoubtedly, the global economic downturn exacerbated by the profound effects of COVID-19 and conflicts in Ukraine and Russia has contributed to the volatility in market prices. However, compounding this situation is the nefarious role played by local syndicates, repeatedly inflating the prices of essential kitchen commodities. This unscrupulous practice has created substantial hardships for individuals belonging to the middle, lower-middle, and impoverished communities.
As the government gears up to assume office, there is an urgent call for concerted efforts to regulate and stabilize market prices. The citizens of Bangladesh are fervently anticipating decisive action from the government to curb the unjust manipulation of commodity prices. Addressing this issue is paramount to easing the economic burden on vulnerable segments of the population and fostering a more equitable and sustainable livelihood for all.
Education remains a crucial concern for citizens, with a call for comprehensive reforms to improve the quality of the education system. From primary education to higher learning institutions, there is a collective hope for policies that enhance accessibility, ensure quality, and equip the youth with skills relevant to the evolving job market. The discourse surrounding reform initiatives at the secondary level warrants heightened attention and understanding.
A recurring theme in citizens' expectations is a commitment to good governance and anti-corruption measures. Transparent and accountable governance is fundamental to building trust between the government and the people. Citizens are hopeful for continued efforts to eradicate corruption and ensure that public resources are used efficiently and ethically.
As climate change continues to pose a threat globally, citizens are increasingly concerned about environmental sustainability. Expectations are high for the government to take decisive actions to address environmental challenges, including sustainable development practices, conservation efforts, and initiatives to combat pollution.
With the ongoing challenges posed by the global pandemic, citizens are looking toward the government to prioritize healthcare and social welfare. Expectations include robust healthcare infrastructure, efficient vaccine distribution, and measures to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities.
Bangladesh is known for its cultural diversity, and citizens seek a government that promotes social harmony and inclusivity. Policies fostering unity among communities and addressing discrimination issues will be closely monitored.
As the election date approaches, the political discourse will likely intensify in the coming weeks. The citizens' expectations set the stage for the challenges and opportunities the next government will face. The Awami League, if successful, will carry the responsibility of translating these expectations into tangible actions that contribute to the well-being and progress of the nation. The eyes of the nation are on the horizon, awaiting the dawn of a new political era.
The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.