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Khaleda-Koko-KoborBNP has suddenly taken a new political turn. For the longest time they have been demanding a general election to be held under a neutral caretaker government. To force the government to accept their demand, they launched two movements before and after the January 5 election in association with Jamaat.

They killed people indiscriminately throughout the country. This terrorism under the cover of political movement did not succeed. BNP was demoralised and there was division among the party’s leaders and workers regarding the boycott of elections and whether it was justified or not. BNP’s rank and file believed that they would have won had they participated in the elections. Many of them, including the older leaders, lost faith in the wisdom of their high command, and there was silent discontent within the party against the high-handedness of Tareq Rahman. They believed that he was misleading the party from the comforts of his self-inflicted exile in London.

Reports were circulating that Begum Zia was losing her grip over the party as she grew older, and repeatedly making wrong decisions. The last two movements of BNP associated with Jamaat were nothing but terrorism that killed and maimed dozens of innocents, and hardly served in toppling the government.

Instead, it came back as a boomerang to bite BNP. Now the party and its leadership are challenged from within. There was also widespread talk about reorganising BNP under new leadership. No one else except Dr. Badrudduza Chowdhury, the founder secretary of BNP, has hinted on this, as has been reported in the media. Perhaps the change of the political situation in Bangladesh has forced Begum Zia to change her mind.

Recently, after consulting with her supporters who are lawyers, she declared that her party will not demand for elections under a caretaker government. Rather, they will participate in the election under a government headed by Sheikh Hasina conditionally.

The conditions are: A mid-term election should be arranged and the ministry of home affairs, public administration and information, should be placed at the hands of neutral people chosen by consultation between AL and BNP. The chief election commissioner should be replaced and the two parties should sit for dialogue to arrange the mid-term election.

This is a welcome decision coming from the second largest political party of Bangladesh. The caretaker governments have failed to hold free and fair elections in the past and the abuse of power by some leading men such as Abdur Rahman Biswas and Iyazuddin Ahmed of those governments has proved the caretaker government system to be far from fool-proof. The system was therefore abolished by constitutional amendment.

Yet BNP wanted to ride this dead horse and obviously could not achieve anything out of it. Many observers think this realisation has forced Begum Zia to abandon the demand for caretaker government, but she still insisted on a mid-term election. There was widespread rumour that two factors worked to change Begum Zia’s mind.

Most of her party leaders believe that BNP committed a great mistake by not participating in January 2014 elections and that they could have won the election easily. It was an incorrect decision by the leadership, which led the party to its current disastrous position. Now Awami League government has gained ground with economic development. Sheikh Hasina’s popularity rate is also rising. BNP failed to prove that this government is illegal. People of Bangladesh and the wider world have accepted the government as a legal one.

Awami League did not prevent BNP from joining the last election. It was BNP’s own decision to boycott the elections and prevent people from participating, which they failed to do. Now, Begum Zia is desperate for a mid-term election. Perhaps her advisors are thinking that BNP is rapidly losing their chances of winning the election. If AL gets more time to hold on to power and complete their present term, then it will be difficult for BNP to win thereafter. So, mid-term elections are BNP’s last chance.

Some BNP sources revealed that Begum Zia allegedly fears that if AL can complete its full term, then she and her son Tareq Rahman may not get a chance to participate in the elections after three or four years. There are serious allegations of corruption and abuse of power against her and her son, and the cases are proceeding in the court of law. The proceedings of those cases may conclude within the tenure of the present AL government, and if they are proved guilty, they may be barred from their election candidature.

That will be the end of their leadership and consequently split the party. Some of the old leaders, who were humiliated by Tareq Rahman, and lost their positions in the party, are waiting in the wings for an opportune moment to come back and retaliate. This is another reason why Begum Zia is desperate for an early election.

If an early election is held, and BNP can win, then Begum Zia can dismiss the charges against her and her son through her official power, and Tareq Rahman may also be able to return to Bangladesh free of legal charges against him. He can then fulfil his dream of being Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

But the question in the political circle of Dhaka is whether BNP can convince the government to a mid-term election or not under Sheikh Hasina’s government. From a pragmatic viewpoint, there is no reason why AL government will accept this demand. The political situation in Bangladesh before and after the elections on January 5, 2014 is not the same.

Before the elections, AL offered several concessions to encourage BNP to join the elections and to avoid bloodshed in the name of anti-government movement by BNP-Jamaat. Now that situation has been totally altered. The election was held with AL remaining in power and people at home and abroad accepting this government as legal. BNP tried their best to convince the outside world that this government is an illegal one.

That attempt failed, and Hasina’s government achieved some kind of stability. There is no demand from people to hold an early election. AL government cannot really hold a mid-term election at the simple demand of the BNP which the people themselves are largely not really ready for.

Moreover, AL has undertaken a large number of social and economic development plans. The trial and punishment of the war criminals of 1971 remains unfinished. AL has a moral duty and commitment towards the people that they will complete this within their present tenure. They need to remain in power for the rest of the term to fulfil their promises towards the people.

BNP’s demand of putting chosen people in some ministries during election is not a very tangible one. This is tantamount to asking for a share of power before one of them wins the election. This is unheard of in democratic countries. For conducting free and fair elections, the mechanisms should be geared up to ensure neutrality. Sharing power between two contesting parties is not practised in a democratic system.

Abdul Gaffar Choudhury is a bdnews24.com columnist.

14 Responses to “Does Bangladesh need mid-term elections?”

  1. M.H.Kabir

    It is true that there is very little democratic practice in the political parties.But putting Awamileague in the same basket with BNP , I think , a sort of injustice to Awamileague. There is qualitative difference between AL and BNP.

    No need for mid term election.But before next general election, a comprehensive discussion among political parties is badly needed in order to solve some core issues e,g common understanding and agreement on Liberation War and its spirit,Father of the nation Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,Anti Liberation forces, Various Constitutional Bodies including Election Commission,Internal democratic Practice of Political Parties and many more.And based on that discussion among major political parties , a national charter must be agreed upon and incorporated in the constitution , which ,hopefully ,will help the nation to get rid of prevailing problems.

    Otherwise, another election , even under Care taker Govt.is not going to make any difference and everything will keep going as usual.So, we cannot afford to waste a huge amount of public money in the name of a mid-term election.

    Above and over all ,a change of attitude of our political leaders , is a must.

    • Golam Arshad

      Can’t agree more. A National consensus on vital core issues such as : Whether to conclude the ongoing War Criminal Trial or retain it with National consensus.This is a very sensitive issue. The polemics of politics centered in 1971,must be carefully reviewed and National Consensus must be found. Bongo Bondhu as the Father of the Nation must be established. Henceforth, Bongo Bondhu will not only be a Father of the Nation for Awami League ONLY. But for the entire Bangladesh Nation. BNP and all Political parties must celebrate with due solemnity and deep respect on his birth and death anniversary. Awami League should duly recognize the glorious role of late President Ziaur Rahman. Awami League should mark the rogue leaders led by Kondokar Mushtaq as the dole conspirator and brutal killer of Bongo Bondhu and his family mrmbers.The Bangladesh Army must not be signaled out even by pointing as a few disgruntled army officers responsible for the assassination of Bongo Bondhu. It was a coup de tat initiated by a section of Awami League that mustonly be the historical fact. Those freedom fighters responsible for carrying out tthe assassination were the cohorts of Khondo kar Mustaq, who was then the senior vice President of Awami League. Just a historical note: Who took power after assassination of Bongo bondhu: it was Khondo kar Mustaq. BNP must apologize for comment against the Father of the Nation petiod. It will be the current opposition politic a lot Parties to come forward and unconditionally declare Bongo Bondhu as the Father of the Nation. Begum Khalifa Zia must recognize as the major opposition. Leader to say Sorry and apologize of. Behalf of his son Tare Rahman for those comments that hurt the feeling of the people who dearly loved Bongo Bondhu.Finally, I would say: hence forth no cases against any political party leader must be logged or intiated. A Referendum On Carrying Forward The War Criminal Trial must be agreed upon and the vetting of the people will be the highest consent tocarry forward. Before that The War criminal Trial so far instituted must be vetted by a consensus aong all political parties and civil society. Why ? You and I know that this issue fractures a Nation. This may go out of Hand even with the change of Government. This is the right time to talk about it and resolve it for good. Judiciary be given the topmost vet by all including political parties for the sake of the intent of a sacred and independent judic iary. This is time! We must deeply respect and Honor our Prime Minister Sheikh Haina for taking good the right step in uniting our Nation and follow the great ideals of our Beloed Father of the Na too

      • M.H.Kabir

        And the gist is: 1) All political Parties including BNP must accept Bangabandhu as Father of The Nation and whole nation must celebrate with due solemnity and deep respect on his birth and death anniversary.

        2).Awami League should duly recognize the glorious role of late President Ziaur Rahman during Liberation War.

        3).Mustaq and his cohorts have been identified and most of them have been brought to book and hanged on rope.

        4).Begum Khalifa Zia must recognize as the major opposition Leader to say Sorry and apologize of. Behalf of his son Tare Rahman for those comments that hurt the feeling of the people who dearly loved Bongo Bondhu.

        5).no cases against any political party leader must be logged or intiated.

        6).A Referendum On Carrying Forward The War Criminal Trial must be agreed upon and the vetting of the people will be the highest consent tocarry forward. Before that The War criminal Trial so far instituted must be vetted by a consensus aong all political parties and civil society.

        7).Judiciary be given the topmost vet by all including political parties for the sake of the intent of a sacred and independent judiciary.

        I think, beside points mentioned in my earlier comment and the 7 points mentioned above ,which have been suggested by you , a few more more issues can be included in that discussion among political parties and must be agreed upon by them in order to to solve the core problems of the nation once and for all.

        Thank you.

      • Golam Arshad

        Mr.Kabir:

        Thank you. Have the WILL and get it done!

        Best regards

        Arshsd
        Former Press .Minister
        Embassy of Bangladesh
        Washington DC

  2. Golam Arshad

    Correction. … ( Late Janab Abdul Awwal …).

    Sheikh Hasina. ..typo error Please correct..

    thee should be ..the…

  3. m zaman

    “Sharing power between two contesting parties is not practiced in a democratic system.” (last sentence of AGK’s article)

    And yet being practiced in today’s Bangladesh.

    Would love to hear Janab AGK’s comment on that.

    Well, personally I do not care about a new election as long as the system of intra-party lack of democracy and overwhelming ochlocracy remains in place.

    What’s the point of replacing one evil by another evil?

  4. sundar swapan

    no, Bangladesh don’t need any election at all , it is time to say enough is enough. we have seen innumerable election both fair and foul without any result. no more election please.

    • Golam Arshad

      Dear Sundar Swapan: No Election ! Very Good point! Keeping up the current political status quo for indefinite period of time! We will vote you as our Speaker for Life! All these politicians are….!!!! It would be wonderful if you and I can be picked up as a Member of Parliament, without any Election! Would not that be grand and a life time opportunity to represent our constituents. Sundar Swapan you have made my Day! Remember that saying: If Wishes were HORSES beggars like Me would take a joy ride! Nothing wrong in dreaming Big! What do you say ? You are the best and the great!!

  5. Golam Arshad

    Respected Gaffer Bhai: I have read this article of yours with enormous intetest.You are an icon by your own merit.A life long avid supporter of Democracy. Bongo Bondhu’s foot soldier of eminence. A fair critic of Awami League. My late father being a Founding Member of Awami League ( Late Janab Abdul Away of Sonargaon/Naray anganj ) it would be a wise decision for Honorable Prime Minister to sit with Begun Khaleda Zia and discuss :National Unity deeply fractured following the Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. A Round Table Conference marking the need for a Mid Term poll. If the Awami League decides to finish it’s current term, in my opinion this will trigger the fall of Awami League badly in the next General Election. In my opinion this is thee Right time to hold a mid term poll, and the Awami League if defeated it will command a good number of seats at least 100 seats. BNP and it’s allies including Jammat combined may obtain 158 seats.Jatiyo Party will not be totally sink as a Party should mid term held in February of 2016. What do you think Gaffer Bhai ? Love to hear your comment.My sixth sense says: Sheikh Haina will call for a Mid Term poll for a strategic move to play the roll of a powerful opposition with a thin majority Government led you Begum Khaleda Zia.One vital think must be addressed when a Dialog takes place for a Mid Term poll to retain the Current ICT in trying accomplices of Geno ide of 1971 . Gaffer Bhai this is the only issue that can easily go out of control without consensus between Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. To me like many is the most sensitive issue that can create havoc! Deep fracture and bloody violence in future whether we do agree for a Mid Term; or No Mid Term Election ? Arshad. Former Press Minister, Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC.

  6. Sarker Javed Iqbal

    I don’t want see a pro-Pakistani political party like BNP in power anymore in Bangladesh. We did not fight in 1971 to create a place for them. At the same time opposing BNP doesn’t confirm a ‘passport’ for AL to be ‘on-board’ to enjoy the trip and also doesn’t ensure a ‘free visa’ for them to roam around as long as they want.

    A real hero never expects a win through retreat by the rival; wishes to have a fight, or a football team never expects a ‘walkover win’. I don’t like to see AL as a coward. Let us have a fight and allow a political party to enjoy the glory of winning.

  7. Dr A Rahman

    It is a nice thought-provoking write-up. I personally see no pragmatic reason for the AL to concede to BNP’s demand for a mid-term election. Just because BNP is desperate to have a mid-term election and without it the party stands to be wiped out of the political map is no persuasive reason to go to the election. Moreover BNP has no official status to ask for an unscheduled election, which would entail violation of the national constitution. Any election costs enormous amount of money to the nation and, as usual, there would be political turmoil. Khaleda Zia can keep praying to Allah in the company of Jammat-e-Islam, but it is not going to happen.

  8. Jyoti

    A good analysis, but interestingly, most of what’s said about Khaleda and Tareq equally apply to PM Hasina and Joy. None of the two parties have intra-party democracy and both are run like a family business where loyalty rather than merit counts.
    Yet BNP can use this interregnum to reinvent itself and that calls for ageing Mrs Zia to step down and give the rein to someone elected from within the party. If such a course is taken, Tareq is out of the picture, as it’s almost certain he won’t bag many votes. This could be a game changer for BNP and Bangladesh polity. Look at BJP next door — Modi worked his way up only on merit.
    As for AL, it also has once in a life time opportunity to re-engineer itself. It’s anybody’s guess what might happen to PM Hasina, if, for example, a leadership ballot is called for. Irrespective of the outcome, AL will come out stronger, as her succession will be based on talent, not family lineage. Mr Chowdhury, why not publicly push for these reforms for a party you have given so much?

  9. rhr2222

    The writer is and and was always partisan. He is a Awami Leaquer, and from his heart would like to see destruction of BNP.Every paragraph is either a lie or twisted.

    Please don’t believe him, he has been lying since a long time.

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