Forthcoming Election & Our Label-based Democratic Practice
by Mukul Mustafiz
The primary spirit of democracy is “rule of the people”. The term “democracy” first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. Thereafter, it took a very long period for conceptualization and positivisation of the concept. At present, this system emerges utmost the whole world by virtue of its moral, ethical and logical efficacy. It replaces and still replacing other system of government i.e. utilitarianism, monarchy etc. This is due to its commitment for ensuring people’s rights of self determination. And this is the spirit of adopting Article 7 in the Constitution of Bangladesh after being independent from the then de facto dictatorship Rule of Pakistan. Article 7 declares that all powers in the republic belong to the people and shall be exercised on their behalf. People exercise these powers through their representatives nominated through election. Therefore, election chairs in the core of a democratic system.
Now Bangladesh is passing the time when Awami League-led government reaches its eleventh hour and people are waiting for electing their representatives to govern the country for the next five years. No doubt this is the vital moment for the people to find out their next government. But ironically in spite of thinking about it (assessing the activities of the last government and planning for the future) people have to go by everyday with unseen anxiety of forthcoming election oriented political unrest.
Political unrest before the national election is an iron fate of Bangladesh from the very birth thereof. After the liberation of Bangladesh, every national election undergoes such unrest. But probably 10th national election is experiencing different crisis and dramatic issues. This crisis was foreseen in 2011 when the government amended the Constitution repealing the provisions relating “Care-taker government.” That amendment was based on a judgment by the Supreme Court. Though the judgment gave a choice to extend the caretaker system with a view to gradual reformation the government without considering the efficiency enacted the amendment.
However, 15th amendment of the Constitution substitutes Article 123 (3) and thereby directs the general election to be held within the period of ninety days preceding the dissolution of the parliament. Despite of strong objection from the opposition, government started to take preparation by reconstruction of the cabinet and calling all ministers to submit resignation letter to that effect. Though the tenure of this government still running, Prime Minister declare to form an election-time government! Moreover, She promises (similar to caretaker government system) not to take any policy-making decision in that so called election-time government tenure (?) though she reneged on the promise through entering into TICFA Treaty with USA.
Complying with the order on 12th November all Ministers submit their resignation letter to the Prime Minister and according to Article 58 (1)(a) their office become vacate therewith. But even thereafter, ridiculously all of them use official flags for the ministers, enter into the office and demand their remaining to be ministers and the event of submitting the resignation letter was merely symbolic! This capricious conduct faced huge criticism from different corner even a writ petition has been filed and rule nisi served on them to show cause. Watching this reaction Prime Minister hurriedly pronounces new cabinet where some of the former remained to be so and she keeps three ministries at her own hands.
The main opposition BNP led 18 parties’ alliance strongly oppose all these government initiatives steering the forthcoming election. They oppose to take part in the election held under the ruling government alleging it to be biased. Meanwhile, at the last session of this parliament Prime Minister delivers her speech directing holding election, for the sake of democracy, considering Jatiya Party as opposition. Consequently on 25th November Election Commission declares election schedule for 10th parliament. This adds fuel to the fire. Opposition calls forthwith 48 hours countrywide obstruction thereafter extends for more 24 hours. This agendum takes about 20 lives. Economy of the country becomes startled. Police randomly arrest hundreds of people including innocent citizens. Everyone feels unsecured. Dead silent shines out everywhere.
Label-based democratic practice results in this impasse. Government makes Jatiya Party (which was a major party of Awami League led 14 parties’ alliance) as opposition and demands the forthcoming election will be contesting and participatory. What is their answer about BNP-Jmaat led 18 parties’ alliance supporters? If election be held without 18 parties’ alliance about 50% population will be denied to exercise their voting power. Mere existence of an opposition party in the election is not sufficient to ensure a democratic election. The prime concern of democracy is not the parties in the election but whether majority people can participate in determining their government or not. How can government ignore about 50% of the population?
Democracy is not a system to impose rather a matter of practice. This practice should be bona fide. But government tries to practice democracy in a literal way. Prime Minister’s keeping home, defense and establishment ministries asserts that they might influence the election. Therefore, the intention of the government is quite clear that it has lack of affability to welcome the major opposition in the election. They try to ensure all the possibilities for being re-elected. If this situation continues to remain, if BNP-Jmaat led 18 parties’ alliance kept out of the upcoming election, then the nation will be put into a very negative uncertainty.
Government tends to legitimate all its actions with invidious interpretation of the Constitution. But “selus populi est suprima lex” that is people’s welfare is the supreme law. All actions should be for the welfare of the people. Present crisis can be resolved if ruling party wants honestly. The nation is excitedly waiting for a wise decision from all political parties.