Can Bangladesh afford an engineered election?

The looming specter of the upcoming election in Bangladesh carries the weight of potential manipulation and political maneuvering. The ruling Awami League finds itself under international scrutiny and faces the risk of punitive measures, including economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the pro-Islamist Jatiya Party, led by GM Quader and stemming from military dictator Gen Hussain Muhammad Ershad’s legacy, advocates for an engineered election on January 7, 2024 highlighting its inability to secure significant votes and bag even five seats without the support and full-blessings of the ruling Awami League.

Despite this reality, foreign envoys, including the US ambassador and the British High Commissioner, have unknowingly bestowed unwarranted attention and significance upon this relatively inconsequential political entity like Jatiya Party, perhaps considering it as a potential ruling party.

Statistics reveal the stark truth about the Jatiya Party’s dwindling influence. Over 86 percent of its candidates forfeited security deposits during the last two general elections, with a nationwide vote bank now below two percent. Its survival hinges on aligning with larger parties like the Awami League, unable to secure more than a handful of seats without their blessings.

As the next election approaches, the Jatiya Party anxiously seeks the Awami League’s endorsement to retain relevance, pleading for uncontested seats, effectively clamoring for an engineered election. This stark contradiction exposes the hypocrisy and opportunism of GM Quader, who initially decried the lack of a fair electoral environment under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership but now pleads for her support to ensure his party’s survival.

Jatiya Party is pressing the demand of an engineered election at a very sensitive time when the ruling Awami League already is facing criticism in the international media stating Bangladesh already has blueprinted an engineered election.

Granting Jatiya Party’s demands for an engineered election would be perilous for Bangladesh’s democratic integrity. It could lead to a compromised government heavily reliant on the whims of a party lacking credibility and honesty. The Awami League must refrain from polluting the election process by succumbing to undue pressure from the Jatiya Party. Instead, it should uphold the principles of fair competition by allowing all parties, including the Jatiya Party, to contest the election without preferential treatment.

The ramifications of conceding to such demands would be dire. It risks intensified scrutiny from Western nations, potentially inviting severe repercussions and media backlash against the Awami League. Differentiating between a rigged, flawed, and engineered election becomes moot when considering the detrimental impact on Bangladesh’s democratic future.

For the Awami League, compliance with the Jatiya Party’s demands could prove catastrophic. It risks not only its own political future but also jeopardizes the very foundations of Bangladesh’s democracy. Upholding the sanctity of a fair and transparent election process is crucial, ensuring that Bangladesh marches forward on the path of genuine democratic progress.

Meanwhile, alleged clandestine connections between the Jatiya Party and BNP’s Tarique Rahman paint a picture of collusion aimed at manipulating future elections by pressuring for the revival of unelected caretaker governments, akin to Pakistan’s system. Secret meetings in Dubai, involving an influential figure from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), hint at a complex web of arrangements and underhand dealings.

Most interesting part here is – while Jatiya Party leaders have been repeatedly telling foreign envoys that there is no scope for a free and fair election under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and there was “no level playing field”, now Jatiya Party is begging mercy of ruling Awami League in the upcoming general election – to ensure its survival. Jatiya Party is demanding uncontested 60+ seats. Meaning, they want an engineered election.

GM Quader even went further by saying, Awami League wants to retain power through another ‘farcical’ election to establish one-party rule. He said, “If they [AL] come back to power, a total dictatorship will be established in the country. One-party rule will be established. Basic human rights, including freedom of speech, will disappear. If there are other political parties, they will also be subservient to the Awami League. No more voices will be found to speak”.

And now, the same GM Quader is even ready to lick the boots of Awami League leaders in holding an engineered election that would ensure the existence of his own party. It evidently proves – GM Quader is neither a politician nor someone supporting democracy. He is purely a hypocrite and opportunist – if not worse.

Meanwhile, according to credible sources, Jatiya Party’s chairman GM Quader and several leaders of the party are not only maintaining contact with BNP’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman, they even have reached into a secret arrangement, where Jatiya Party had categorically ensured Tarique of either abruptly withdrawing from election race at eleventh hour or play the role of a pressure force in the next parliament and compel Awami League in reviving the process of holding future elections under unelected caretaker government – similarly as Pakistan.

Jatiya Party leaders reportedly have guaranteed Tarique Rahman of getting the caretaker system revived within maximum six months of the next tenure of the government and suddenly resign en masse from parliament thus paving the path for a fresh election. Once that happens, Jatiya Party shall join the BNP-led alliance and subsequently become a coalition partner in the Ultra-Islamist government led by the BNP.

Another source said, the final arrangement of a secret romance between BNP and Jatiya Party was chalked-out when Jatiya Party chief GM Quader silently visited Dubai a few months ago being accompanied by his special envoy and nephew. At least two meetings took place between the Jatiya Party delegation and an influential officer of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). In presence of the ISI officer, Jatiya Party leaders had also joined a Skype meeting with BNP’s Tarique Rahman.

In my opinion, if ruling Awami League shall actualize Jatiya Party’s undue demand of holding an engineered election ensuring more than 40 seats to Jatiya Party, it shall definitely ride on the horns of rhino, where the next government shall become almost captive into the grips and whims of Jatiya Party leadership – that seriously lacks political honesty, credibility and even trustworthiness. As Bangladesh is heading towards a free, fair and credible election, the ruling Awami League must refrain from polluting it by granting undue favor to the so-called opposition – Jatiya Party. If this military dictator’s party wants to continue its existence in the parliament, let it contest the election challenging Awami League and opposition candidates alongside candidates from political parties such as Trinamool BNP.

While Western nations have been repeatedly putting emphasis on a free, fair and credible election in Bangladesh, for ruling Awami League it shall be a genuine blunder that may bring catastrophic consequences if it accepts Jatiya Party’s undue demand of an engineered election on January 7. Reaching into any secret deal with Jatiya Party shall result in intensified media assault targeting Awami League, which may lead the Western nations in taking the next step against Bangladesh. Key policymakers in the ruling Awami League hopefully understand – there is no distinctive difference between a rigged or flawed election and an engineered election. Just for the sake of giving new life to Jatiya Party, if ruling Awami League accepts its demand of an engineered election, it actually will be suicidal for Awami League and the future of Bangladesh’s democracy.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.