Elections in independent Bangladesh have not been credible. Maybe once or twice but what followed in the next round of voting after that has been unseemly. Whether it meant changing the rules arbitrarily which brought in martial law or when the fixing has been so open that nobody bothered about the results show this institution has not taken root.
It's also natural to ask if everyone should be overly bothered about elections in a country where the majority of social institutions are informal and non-elected. However it's very important for the elite class as a whole which right now through its political face is facing an internal crisis. And since the ruling class contenders call the shots in the formal space, the issue needs resolving.
There is no co-relationship between income enhancement and elections so public interest is there but limited. It's about power over state institutions and systems which determine enrichment through its control. In the end, it's about execution of the crony capitalism framework. While one group enjoys it all, many other groups are left out, hence the importance to elections.
The politics of the ruling party
Public participation in politics is very limited in the activists' sense for many reasons. The government party in fact doesn't need politicians as much because many of the political functions are carried out by amlas now. In fact, the issue of representation in society has undergone a dramatic change with more direct linkage with those who can take decisions regarding their needs. The result has been detrimental to the best interest of the politicians as people need them less and less.
This has forced many politicians to look for alternative sources of income which has ranged from rent seeking activities to taking over areas for protection rackets. Some are accused of being involved with various levels of the drug economy too as the economics of representation has soured and gone missing. Tadbir as an economic activity is no longer the monopoly of the politicians. What else can the politicians do to maintain his own clout and his cadres?
This demotion of the professional politician's status within the ruling system means they have to depend more on the top layer to survive. There have been rebellions but rebels are not very successful. Without indulgence, they can't survive economically and so loyalty is key. One can't say how they actually feel but suffice to say that their economics is/will be blown apart if any regime changes. They remain the most vulnerable of them all.
The politics of the Opposition
There is little good news to cheer the Opposition given their weak administrative structure except that they are firmly established in the media space, far better than the Government party. They have several advantages in this sector. There are a host of personalities in the Opposition which draws crowd and attention. Be it Dr. Zafarullah Chowdhury to Manna to VP Nur or Kibria, their stable is handsome. They don't have a Sheikh Hasina who makes all the difference but there is none in the AL stable who can also look better. Each time something happens, it's the daughter of Sk. Mujib who bailed them out. Leadership within the AL has simply not grown. It is a vulnerability that the ruling party doesn't want to admit but the facts are there to see.
Social media is largely a space which the Opposition occupies despite the occasional application of the DSA. Émigré media has now become mainstream and that has a mighty viewership and as outside the Bangladesh shores beyond censorship as well. Thus, despite having no Opposition media outlet in Bangladesh, opposition media is robust.
Add to this, the Western pressure which may be a little less now after the Ukraine war but still formidable. And all attention is now on the 2023 election. Almost everyone knows, they have to be better than the 2018 edition and the US envoy has stated that as well which means it's a serious issue. Given the global war situation forcing food shortages on others, Bangladesh can't afford to ignore them. And no matter what, EVMs have become the symbolic culprit. It has been successfully demonised and public confidence in EVMs is absent, whether they are voters or not. The EC has moved from saying "It's ok but needs improvement" to "EVMs need to win public confidence."
And this is the crunch line. The Opposition won't accept EVM - or the national government- and hence no election. The government can't feel better without it in an election. To do this, the EVM will be a big issue and while the national government issue remains, how far the West decides it wants to put pressure on and its gain is a big point. Some understanding between the three parties involved has to be worked out. Right now, the scene is not clear but some casualties can already be detected lying fatally injured. EVM may be one of them.
Elite crisis is increasing.
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