Unyielding Determination of the EC and Government for Fair Elections

Published : 14 Dec 2023 10:14 PM

The credibility of the upco­ming 12th parliamentary election in the country has been a subject of extensive debate due to the non-participation of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP's decision to abstain from the elections was anticipated, given their demand for the current government's resignation and the reinstatement of a caretaker government to supervise the national parliamentary election. The ruling party, however, rejected this demand, asserting its commitment to upholding the constitutional provision that mandates holding elections under the incumbent government.

Despite the BNP concerted efforts to exert international pressure on the government to negotiate to secure a resolution ensuring a free, fair, and credible election, their endeavors proved futile. Consequently, they have vehemently opposed the election at any cost, initiating political actions such as hartals and blockades since October 29. The party, however, finds itself in a precarious situation with the Election Commission (EC) announcing the election schedule. The BNP faces challenges in creating a significant political impasse, lacking sufficient organizational strength beyond staging hartals, blockades, and carrying out arson attacks on vehicles. This situation has led citizens to believe that the country's election will proceed as usual.

A crucial question arises: Can the EC effectively ensure a free, fair, and credible election in the country? Since the initiation of the election journey through the announcement of the election schedule, the EC's actions have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to conducting a credible election. Their adept handling of administrative affairs and several decisions, widely endorsed by the general populace, exemplify this dedication. Notably, the EC's decision to transfer Upazila Nirbahi Officers across most Upazilas and Officers in Charge in most thanas has resonated strongly at the grassroots level, signaling the seriousness with which they approach the election process. Furthermore, the EC has taken a robust stance against all candidates, including incumbent ministers and parliament members, found violating electoral rules. These initiatives strongly suggest that the EC intends to facilitate a fair and credible election in the country. 

The EC finds itself with little choice but to take measures to ensure a credible election in the country, given the international community's close scrutiny of the election and their heightened expectations. As both national and international actors closely observe the EC's role, the EC is motivated to avoid controversy and instead seeks to garner the confidence of all stakeholders by conducting a transparent and credible election. The EC has extended invitations to the BNP for dialogue to find a resolution, even expressing readiness to adjust the schedule if the BNP chooses to participate. Regrettably, the BNP has not responded positively to any of these invitations, maintaining their opposition to the appointment of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners since their selection. The lack of a positive response from the BNP should not be grounds for condemning the EC, as they have tried to engage in dialogue and accommodate potential adjustments in the election schedule.

The looming question pertains to the government's stance on the upcoming election – will they attempt to manipulate it, or are they genuinely anticipating a credible electoral process? I believethat the government will likely exert maximum effort to ensure a credible election, even in the absence of the BNP. A credible election would bestow legitimacy upon the ruling party as they seek to form a new government post-election victory. Over the past 15 years, the ruling party has amassed significant credibility through transformative initiatives in the country. Despite their achievements, a lingering dissatisfaction from the 2018 election has left them uneasy when discussing the subject nationally and internationally. Consequently, the government is expected to avoid actions that might leave them vulnerable in the eyes of the public and the global community. 

To foster a participatory election in the country, the ruling party has adopted a political strategy allowing rebel candidates to contest the election independently, even though this approach carries the risk of promoting factional politics at the local level. Despite the potential drawbacks, the ruling party has embraced this strategy to ensure widespread voter participation in the election. This decision has subjected the ruling party to substantial pressure from its electoral alliance, consisting of 14 parties and the Jatiya party. The alliance partners advocate for the withdrawal of independent candidates affiliated with the ruling party, expressing concerns about the potentiallyunfavorable outcome of the election. However, the ruling party remains steadfast in its commitment to this decision. Therefore, it can be asserted unequivocally that the ruling party is also invested in pursuing a credible election in the country.

In conclusion, it can be affirmed that Bangladesh's citizens eagerly anticipate the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights on January 7, 2024, to elect a government that will govern the country for the next five years. Despite concerns about the election's credibility, I firmly believe that it will be credible and participatory. The EC has demonstrated commendable progress in ensuring a credible election. The government needs to continue extending support to the EC, as both entities share the common goal of conducting a credible election.

The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the 

University of Rajshahi.