Who wants to participate in the 2023 elections under the current arrangement is tough to say. The AL led government has established an EC which has failed to take off. It was not just the process that created unease, the selection committee and the members were all seen as part of the amla-political complex that is pro-AL/GOB.
But its credibility was badly hit by the Comilla -Bahar incident, which has cast serious doubt on its ability to function when it has no executive powers. The EC has more or less admitted it, saying that on its own, it can't guarantee a quality election. It needs the public to participate but that's the last thing the people/voters want to do. Their stake in any election in a politically violent Bangladesh is limited. So the possibility of an election which everyone likes seems less and less.
That expectation by itself could be academic because the leader of the Opposing forces, BNP, has already rejected any elections not just under the EC but under the current Government. It wants a national government replacing the present one, a demand which the AL has rejected through its constitutional amendment and legal positioning not to mention its power as the ruling government. Given that the two demands can't meet, any discussion on the EC seems rather unnecessary.
And of course to add to the fire is the EVM, a system nobody wants.
EC tried holding a meeting on the EVM but nobody bothered to attend. All five major Opposition parties invited to its EVM meeting online skipped it which included the BNP. Its leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi says it all as far as they are concerned. "It is an illegal Election Commission and they are doing nothing but carrying out the instructions of the government."
Does it look like an election is a little over a year away going by the present mood?
AL's Padma Bridge card and the opposition's agitation plan
It's quite possible none really cares about an election. AL is not that concerned about the elections because it thinks that the Padma Bridge enthusiasm and achievement will carry it through any elections, good or bad. So it's going to play on the "development" card.
The opposition was hoping that the "sanctions"/USA imposed on individuals and RAB would push AL to give in to some significant demands and for a while that was the main pressure point in politics , it's true. However, they may have overestimated its clout and the global political environment has also changed the scenario. The US was able to put pressure on Bangladesh but "electoral democracy "is not its objective, US interest is. And that was Bangladesh's proximity to China. So the sanction which seemed very promising doesn't look like that. Unless it makes a comeback and makes politics a little more lively again.
The Ukraine war has however shown that the US clout is less than it thought it had and others too. Countries were forced to look after their own interest risking US wrath. Even the US sanctions aren't doing too well. The most significant example is India, which despite being the region's main US ally traded with Russia extensively and continues to do so. The result has been softening on human rights issues and more focus on cooperation. AL has benefited from this changed global strategy. And there are bigger US priorities as far as its check list goes than bringing good elections to Bangladesh.
That situation and positions leave more or less the streets to finalize the battle going by party positions. After 14 years, BNP is still in the woods still and AL has held on to power. Credit must go to the BNP that it still retains the main opposition party status. But elections are probably not on anyone's mind as the arbiter so who controls the streets is what the future may be about? Is 2023 going to be a year of serious unrest?
Whether there will be unrest or not, life will be uncomfortable with the price rise, fuel shortage and load shedding to name a few. And it's being predicted that another round of floods are on towards the end of July making already miserable life even more so. Politics may not be on many minds when price rise is so stressful. But it may well add to resentment towards the ruling government.
However, the government has proven to be a good manager of politics too using all its powers and the opposition hasn't made it uncomfortable yet. How the super powers behave towards whom and how may be more important than local politics.
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