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BD NEWS24 01For nearly 48 hours, at least some people lived with hope that the political impasse would end and a peaceful run up to the elections was possible. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina had made an offer of an all-party government to supervise the elections but it was rejected by the minor opposition parties as soon as it was announced. The BNP took more time but hit back with a counter proposal of having members of past caretaker governments rejecting the PM’s offer. As it seems, things are back to square one with both the politicians and agitators getting ready for the next violent edition that is becoming the hallmark of every electoral transfer of power. Once again it’s uncertainty that one is sure of. Bangladeshis deserve something, anything, better than this but can Bangladesh politics offer anything better?

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Although the PM made an offer of an all-party government, her language, style and attitude were confrontational for a PM making a peace offer. She spent a great deal of time trashing the BNP and its leaders and then mentioned her offer. Sadly, it seemed an offer that came without the spirit of reconciliation that was so badly needed. It was again like going through the motions of conflict resolution although the language used was that of conflict reduction.

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BNP’s reaction and action from the beginning have been that of confrontation. They have lost much political muscle power since the anti-Jamaat-e-Islami initiatives were taken and the war crimes tribunal has depleted JI’s arson power significantly. So to the BNP, confrontation seems to be the only way out to keep the steam going, and going by the words of the leaders they seem to be embracing the ongoing phase of politics. It does seem that neither party has a plan to get out of trouble and the only plan is to keep going till something happens. It doesn’t seem that either knows where the situation is heading.

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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

What Khaleda Zia has done is present her caretaker government formula without really arguing why the PM’s formula was unacceptable. She didn’t respond in that sense to the offer but gave a counter offer which didn’t solve any of the problems. In fact, she didn’t push for any details that may there be in the PM’s offer but focused on her own. Obviously, both politicians live in a world of their own and it doesn’t matter what public opinion has to say.

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When the BNP tried to play around with the nomination of the caretaker chief in 2006, they presented a farce of international quality. The AL responded by the logi-baitha marches that ultimately created a situation which went beyond the control of both parties and the military stepped in. Like it or not, this intervention was welcomed by many though temporarily. It was not because people love military rule but because it promised an end to extreme street violence.

For the last nine months we have already had sporadic mid to high level street violence and the people were expecting a way out. While it’s true that the coping skills of people are higher now having seen so much, there is always a point at which it may become too much. It may not be a matter of political ambition of a section of the military. It may become a matter of everyone’s survival.

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Does it mean we have gone past hope? We think not because we have the example of 1/11 to remind us that things can get worse and cause long term issues for the politicians. The ball is not in either the AL or the BNP’s court, it’s in both their court. In Bangladesh’s politics where there is no prescribed system for political let alone electoral governance, the conventional Government and Opposition system doesn’t apply. Both can hurt each other and to the people or at least to most of them, it’s always a fight between two political parties and not between two representative groups of the people.

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Photo: bdnews24.com

The crisis seems not of politics, law, or the electoral system but of vanity and pride. Neither party wants to be seen as backing down. The abolition of the caretaker government was a mistake because the kind of political maturity that is required for holding elections under an incumbent government simply doesn’t exist but the BNP made a case against itself. And the AL could have waited for a few more years and that would have ensured some more breathing time. The issue is not a constitutional or legal hurdle but that of will. Both must find a neutral political and electoral space but for that to happen, both must want a solution.

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All party government is out, caretaker government is out so what remains? Perhaps they need both. Let there be an all-party government with an advisory body which will develop a Code of Conduct that will guide how the parties will behave till the elections. Let this body be exclusively concerned abut the elections and not the administration during the interim period unlike the caretaker governments before but just make elections better to ensure participation. It’s not a caretaker government at all but an election advisory council that will not have any executive power and the only obligation others will have is to listen to their counsel.

It will achieve three things. A) No caretaker government will be returned and so the AL will be happy. B) The elections will be held with some counsellor supervision and the BNP will be motivated to join. C) The people will be happy because there will be some degree of peace up to the elections.

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This suggestion comes out of a sense of desperation because both seem to avoid solutions. What has changed since the crisis begun except public resilience?

In some ways this could be the final elections in the way we know it. The crisis is that of the politicians and the parties and it’s their future which is at stake. The people will prevail because they have learnt to do so over the last 40 years. But can the politicians survive?

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

10 Responses to “Back to square one?”

  1. Maulana Jakir Hossain

    In the name of hartals, whatever BNP and its allies doing are unpardonable. So, any plain dealing won’t do with them. These wickeds must be paid in their own coins. Because these people are rogues and if you save a rogue from the gallows, he will rob you the next night

    Time is running out fast for the government. Remember, a stitch in time saves nine. Act now more forcefully against these barbarous evil forces because “nothing like force”. The enemies are then bound to retreat.

  2. Akteruzzaman

    AL has only two choices:

    1. Give a caretaker govt and lose the elections. During and after the elections JI and Hefazat people will lynch many of the lower level AL workers and leaders and BNP will be just an onlooker. AL does not have a back up plan for protection in case of defeat.

    2. Go ahead without the caretaker govt and face the chaos and violence leading to a non-democratic govt. A non democratic govt can give some protection to AL workers inside and outside of prison.

    AL seems to be going for the second choice.

  3. M.Mozammel Haque

    When TAAL GACH AMAR is must -it will never solve any issue.
    All parties government was somewhat logical but fear of its chief brings its credibility nil.
    And this is because loss of trust in the procedure to make the chief of the interim government.
    It needs lucky draw by both chiefs or secret opinion poll.
    Any honorable respectable citizen can do it.
    And there is a question of influence and use of local government amenities in disguise.
    This can be controlled when a MP or minister apply for polling contest he must resign from the position or benefits.Any one in the strength of parliament or cabinet can not contest in election.This will bring him equal to the opponents.
    Every candidate’s account will be monitored by the local returning officer.
    I feel for every one thousand taka expense over the limit of expenditure his election result grade should get deduction.And from the next parliamentary session the selected lady members have only right to talk on any issue but they should not be given chance to vote for any decision by secret opinions.
    And there should no 70 in the assembly proceeding. It must regarded that all members are honorable because they are elected by their public.
    Leaders of the both parties let you please talk on these if you really like this country.

  4. Shah Jawad Shamir

    haire bangladesh 2 netri r chipai poira tue nisheh hoye geli!! kharap laage tor jonno.

  5. Golam Arshad

    Dear Afsan: No Resolution is a Solution without intent of MOTIVATION. You are absolutely RIGHT and I Quote:”The crisis seems not of politics, law, or the electoral system but of vanity and pride”. One thing you and I understand, that both the LEADERS are very much aware of public desire and pressure. I do hope, a compromise will emerge sooner than later, without any extra constitutional interference. Let Democracy prevail ! Good job my friend!!

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