Survival depends on participation

Farid Hossain
Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
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It is obvious that Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who claims to be the main political opponent of ruling Bangladesh Awami League, seeks to return to power. The question, however, is how. In any democracy a political party has only one way to go to power: ballots. If BNP takes part in the next general election and if people cast their ballots in its favour then BNP will obviously go to power. Then the question again is: will BNP take part in the next national election scheduled to to be held in 2019. Before an answer to this question let’s look at how the ruling Awami League finds the situation.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League have made it clear that they want to see the next election participatory and all inclusive. This means the government and the ruling party sincerely want rival BNP to take part in the polls. Thanks to growing popularity achieved through massive development work Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in a commanding position in the political battleground. With her political position solid and the prospects for an electoral victory bright the prime minister has little to be afraid of a challenge from the BNP. In fact the BNP has been decimated so much it is incapable of throwing any real challenge to the Awami League. This reality does not necessarily make the prime minister happy about her party’s prospects in the next general election. She would rather be happy to have a tough fight with her main political rival. She is also keen on ensuring a level playing field for the BNP. The next general election will be free and fair as per the promise and assurance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A new Election Commission, which has been chosen through lengthy but fair process of public scrutiny, is in place to make sure that the next general election is held in a free and fair atmosphere with the participation of all registered political parties of the country. A atmosphere conducive to holding free and fair election is being created by the new Election Commission with necessary support from the government.


The question is if the BNP is prepared to recognize the new reality. In boycotting the 2014 parliamentary polls BNP leader Khaleda Zia had committed a huge political mistake. Will she repeat the same mistake or will she make amend? Analysts suggest that Khaleda’s best chance is political survival is to accept the electoral challenge and test her public credibility through ballots. As they say ballots and only ballots are the acceptable means of changing a government. Crying that election under an incumbent government will be rigged in favour of the ruling party is pointless as the election will be conducted and supervised by an independent Election Commission. Under the existing constitutional provisions Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be just a night watchman when the 2019 general election is held. That’s how the things go in a democratic political system. With a strong EC in charge chances of election fraud are thin. Besides, there is watchful international election observers who will be ever alert about any wrongdoing.


Yet BNP remains suspicious about the intent of the ruling party. It’s a disease the opposition party has been suffering since it has been out of power for a long period. Like in the last election BNP has its option to boycott the vote, but it will do that in its own perils. It will no doubt be a final suicidal move and if it does so it could be the end of its existence. Boycott of elections does not do any good to a political party which claims to have democratic credentials.


If Khaleda cooperates with her arch political foe, Sheikh Hasina in ensuring an inclusive election it will be more beneficial for her own party and her own political survival. That’s for sure.

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