Election experts and politicians have urged the ruling and opposition parties to engage in dialogue to find a sustainable solution for a credible national election and to ensure a smooth journey of democracy in Bangladesh.
They also said neither the foreign countries nor the street agitations can help hold a credible and acceptable national election until the major parties reach a consensus to remove the political crisis and lack of confidence among them and to make the state institutions functional.
Society for Global and Bangladesh Studies (SGBS), a newly launched think tank, and Experts Academy Ltd., jointly organised the seminar titled “Bangladesh: Pathway to Democratic Advancement” at hotel in Dhaka on Saturday.
SGBS executive director Mithila Farzana moderated the programme while it was presided over by Farid Hossain, editor of the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and chairman of the SGBS.
Julhas Alam, bureau chief of the Associated Press, presented the keynote paper at the programme.
Speaking at the seminar, local government expert Tofail Ahmed said the difference in public support in terms of votes is not big between the two major political parties—Awami League and BNP. "So, one party can’t eliminate another. It's not possible…the two parties must take the country forward by resolving political problems through discussions and consensus.”
He said that the ruling party should play a pivotal role in overcoming the crisis over the polls and ensure a credible election.
Former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussain said the main problem in the country is that its institutions are not functioning.
“We’re talking about the interference of foreign countries. But what is the reason behind it? Our political parties don’t have confidence in each other. Under such a situation whether we’ll get democracy We must take steps to make our institutions functional,” he said.
Security expert Maj Gen (retd) M Abdur Rashid said some parties are trying to hold the next polls depending on the foreign powers. "We're giving the responsibility for determining our fate to others. It can't be democracy."
Can the politicians say they allowed or are now allowing the administration and the institutions to work independently? This is the root cause behind the current crisis.
He said that a healthy atmosphere without any threat and intimidation is necessary to hold a fair and credible election. “If any party gives a walkover, then the election will not be competitive. So, political parties must come forward to ensure a healthy democracy in Bangladesh."
Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of SHUJAN-Citizens for Good Governance, said the election is not just a one-day affair as there are many steps and processes involved in it to ensure a credible election.
“Some institutions will execute the steps and processes. The neutrality of institutions involved with the process will determine whether the election will be held in a free and fair manner or not,” he observed.
"If we don't practise proper and healthy politics and engage in talks the problem will not be resolved. I can say the solution will not come from the streets. So, talks with an open mind among the political parties are necessary to overcome the problems. Only politicians can find the pathway to sustainable democracy,” he said.
Prothom Alo's joint editor Sohrab Hassan said the crisis over democracy has created barriers to holding credible elections in the country. “Political parties are responsible for it. Can the politicians say they allowed or are now allowing the administration and the institutions to work independently? This is the root cause behind the current crisis.”
He said that the politicians have miserably failed to ensure an acceptable system for fair polls over a long period after the independence.
Sohrab said the ruling Awami League now must find a way to hold a credible election in the interests of the country.
Jatiya Party co-chairman Kazi Feroz Rashid said politicians still could not define the definition of democracy. “Awami League and BNP had fought for democracy. Now Awami League is saying democracy is working while BNP is saying there is no democracy.”
He, however, lamented that politicians have now nothing in their hands as the country is now run by bureaucrats as the politicians destroyed the institutions and all professional bodies.
Awami League Mohammad A Arafat said a dialogue with genuine and open mind and honest intention is necessary to have solutions to the problems relating to democracy and elections. "It is also necessary to review the past incidents and reasons behind the problems to find out the genuine solutions.”
“We need a strong and genuine foundation for holding fair polls not only for the next election but also for the future ones,” he observed.
Former UGC chairman Prof Abdul, Mannan, Experts Academy founder Hasan Rahman, Amader Notun Shomoy emeritus editor Nayeemul Islam Khan, ruling party Nahim Razzaq, FEMA president Munira Khan, former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Dhaka University Social Science department chairperson Prof Sadeka Halim, international relations expert Prof Delwar Hossain, former FBCCI president and Jubo League presidium member Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Expert Academy adviser Sirajul Islam and regional director at ARTICLE 19 Faruq Faisel, among others, spoke at the programme