Hopefully you will keep your word and amend all errors

Sultana Kamal

The election took place as expected. It cannot really be termed as an election. There was no opportunity to choose candidates of various parties and views. It was the same party in different identities. Some of the candidates were directly nominated by the party. Some who were not given nomination, contested as independent candidates. Then again, there were those who acquiesced to the party's desire for them to contest as "dummy" candidates. We really have no idea about the objectives of these candidates, their thoughts, or if they have any wish to resolve problems in the coming days. They did not take any such messages to the people. All they did was to summon the people to the polling centres to ensure the victory of the pro-liberation war forces.

The ruling party had a manifesto. It was not much different from those of the past. It was the same narrative in a different form.

There are grave apprehensions as to how far this parliament will discuss issues pertaining to the real situation of the country and issues of public interest

It was more or less decided in advance who would win in this election and who would lose. And then the parliament that we have got through this election is bereft of any opposition. It is a parliament solely dominated by the ruling party. The opposition is negligible. If a parliament without any opposition continues in this manner for long, it paves the way for autocracy.

We have seen such a parliament for quite a few years now -- almost without any opposition party or opposition. It has been the same this time. There are grave apprehensions as to how far this parliament will discuss issues pertaining to the real situation of the country and issues of public interest.

Anyway, the election is over. All said and done, we can still have some expectations. For instance, the head of the ruling party, honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said during her election campaign, "Look upon us with forgiveness." She will make amends. We can hope that they will assess the errors they had made, and not just through the eyes of the ruling party. They must listen to the civil society, people from various sectors. Only then will they be able to realise their mistakes. And identifying mistakes is not enough. There must be an effort to rectify these.

The government has long been saying that despite all intentions, they were unable to carry out large scale reforms due to pressure from various groups. For example, their education policy or women's policy was not implemented. They could not fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord. The anti-discrimination bill hasn't even been raised in parliament. This society is rife with corruption, absence of the rule of law, lack of democratic values and extreme negligence of human rights. The last government did not take any steps in this regard on the excuse of adversity. Now they have absolute majority. They claim the people have given them their full mandate to run the country on the lines of their principles and policies. So now they cannot say that they failed to implement their policies in fear of any quarter. We hope that they bring about positive changes.

* Sultana Kamal is a human rights activist

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