News Analysis AL aloof, alone

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Never before in Bangladesh’s political history, has any major political party faced such present and future isolation at home and abroad as is being suffered by the Awami League.

And the way the ruling party has been reckoning the situation is bizarre, dangerous and yet inexplicable. It looks like no book on politics has written any chapter on the AL’s present course.

The AL is today isolated domestically on its plan to hold a one-sided election that many have already termed farcical.

It has successfully left the BNP, the other major party, out of the election. But it has also failed to rope in the ‘third’-in-line Jatiya Party (JP) which it thought would be its partner in political gambit. Even today, nobody is sure about the JP’s position on the January 5 election.

JP chief HM Ershad is interned in the name of treatment (and was about to be sent abroad), something that reminds us of the bygone years of dictatorial rule by Pinochet and Saddam Hossain.

Using brute force, the ruling party is still getting some half-hearted support from Ershad’s wife Rawshan.

The AL’s other ragtag election contestants are name-only parties. Nobody believes they could ever win a single seat in a proper election. For example, in five out of six seats in Dinajpur (one seat is already uncontested), the AL’s main opposition is the Workers Party. In the last three elections, the Workers Party bagged a total of about 1,500 votes in all these seats together.

The AL becomes even more isolated at home as 154 candidates, more than half the seats in the House, of this one-sided election are already elected, without even one vote cast. There were no other candidates. And voters did not need to walk up to the polling stations.  

This has made the AL even more isolated from its voters. With the BNP remaining outside the race, half the voters find no place in the political process. And half of the remaining voters do not need to vote to ‘elect’ their MPs as they have already crossed through the line unopposed. The rest half have no choice and see no real reasons to vote.

So we are going to have a parliament totally unrepresentative.

Bangalees being so electrifyingly political, they love to vote because it is the only opportunity they get to have some say in state affairs. Now they know they don’t even have that right.

In the international arena the situation is no better.

All countries except India have already made it known that they have no reasons to consider this election a free, fair and participatory one. The US, EC and the Commonwealth have declared they will not send any election observers.

Diplomats of all western countries feel it is a non-sense election that does not enjoy their endorsement. Many of the diplomats wonder on what level their governments would engage with the new government if formed through such a farcical election. This will have grave implications for the country’s development.

And the AL, the oldest political party of the country with a long tradition of struggle for democracy, has also become isolated from its own mien.

The party that was led by great men like Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman today looks like any other party, miles removed from democratic values.

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