Right to vote is the only way out of economic crisis

Speakers at the webinar titled ‘suppression, movement and economy: Bangladesh’s way-out’

As the ongoing economic crisis is linked to the political instability, the way out of this is to establish people’s rights to vote.

The crisis will further intensify in case of a controversial election like the last two national elections.

Speakers at a webinar titled ‘suppression, movement and economy: Bangladesh’s way-out’ made these remarks. The Forum for Bangladesh Studies organised iy.

Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor ​of the Department of Politics and Government at the Illinois State University made the concluding remarks.

He said, “This economic crisis didn’t emerge all of sudden. This situation is the obvious outcome of the system established through the general elections in 2014 and 2018. There is no accountability. The ruling party has taken it for granted that they will continue to rule through suppression. And people are paying for this.”

“There is a way-out of this economic crisis. Let everyone cast their votes. Let the people of Bangladesh decide what will be the way-out for Bangladesh. An inclusive economy is impossible without an inclusive election. You cannot separate the economic crisis from politics. Establishing the right to vote is the way-out of this crisis," Ali Riaz added.

Policy Research Institute executive director Ahsan H Mansur said, “I don’t want any election like 2014 and 2018. The time of the incumbent government is nearing the end. They should think of reaching a consensus. Both the government and the opposition must compromise. Let the election be fair to reinstate the democratic practices.”

Saying that the government is liable for the current economic crisis, he said, “The economy of the country is in dire straits. The country hasn’t gone through such a long crisis in the last 30 years. The government is not being able to pay the dues of the power, fertiliser and aviation sectors."

"Such a situation didn’t appear overnight. Initiatives were not taken based on market assessments. There is a lack of knowledge and proper leadership in the financial sector. It needs an efficient and active minister. The government’s policy decision was wrong. The decisions were taken on political groundsdue to political reasons," the economist noted.

Ahsan H Mansur feels that the government will somehow manage the economy until the election.

He said, “The crisis of forex reserves won’t be over easily. The ruling party won’t be able to expel those involved in misdeeds even if they come to power by holding elections somehow as they need those people to win the election. The corruption we are observing today reflects political deterioration. Instead of only saying that they will fix everything after the election, the government should think seriously about it.”

Citing that the police are taking different actions unlawfully, Asif Nazrul, professor of the Department of Law at the Dhaka University said, “The police are not utilising their power equally. The police are blaming the BNP blatantly without properly investigating the incidents that happened surrounding their grand rally on 28 October. They are filing fictitious cases. The police’s credibility has been greatly hampered due to this.”

He further said, “The state-owned organisations are losing their character. They have turned into organisations to fulfil the wishes of the ruling party. How a neutral election will be held under these organisations and law enforcements? It is clear the government wants to hold a completely rigged election using the state owned organisations.”

“A one-sided, rigged and controversial election leads to lack of accountability and corruption. We are heading towards another rigged election. If these accountable institutions of the state, the civil society and media cannot play any role now, then we are preparing for a mass-suicide. This will be a self-destruction of democracy and economic development," Asif Nazrul added.

Former registrar general of Bangladesh Supreme Court Iktedar Ahmed addressed the webinar as a panel discussant.

He said, “The way the constitution is being violated in the country is unprecedented in any other country. The top officials of the police have taken up a partisan role. They are always sincere in implementing the decisions of the ruling party. An arrested person must be produced before the court within 24 hours of their arrest as per the laws of the country. However, there is no one to question even if the arrested persons are produced even three, five or 10 days after their arrest.

Iktedar Ahmed said, “The existing crisis is circling around one question regarding the type of the government under which the election will be held. It is a settled issue. The system of caretaker government was introduced in 1996 based on a political consensus. Later, it was cancelled unilaterally.”

Taking part in the open discussion session, Centre for Policy Dialogue’s (CPD) executive director Fahmida Khatun said, “The existing economic crisis is linked to the political crisis we are passing through. A flawed political situation has various impacts, which is evident in the finance sector. This sector has been heavily burdened with various sorts of crises. Taking a stern action to make a way-out of this crisis requires a conducive political environment.”

Journalist Monir Haider conducted the webinar. Professor Mahmudul Hasan of the International Islamic University of Malaysia gave the welcome speech at the webinar.