If the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) wins less than 70 seats in the 30 December elections, the next Jatiya Sangsad (national assembly) too will remain dysfunctional, says political thinker Emajuddin Ahamed.
“The BNP should be in the race either to earn a victory or at least to emerge as strong opposition party… It will in no way be possible to bring down the party’s seats below 80-70, given the enthusiasm of the people about it,” he said in an interview with Prothom Alo.
The former vice chancellor of Dhaka University ruled out the ruling party’s criticism that the opposition has no contender for the prime minister’s post and said if the BNP wins 151 seats, it will take only 72 hours for party chairperson Khaleda Zia to emerge as candidate.
About level-playing field in polls campaign, Emajuddin alleged that almost 2.5 million opposition leaders, activists and supporters were made victims in cases which, he compared with a recent news report titled ‘A deadly September in Dhaka’ based on police complaints of sabotage when commoners said otherwise.
“Unless the cases remain suspended till the date of voting, there is no possibility of level-playing field. These people have voting rights as they are the citizens of the country,” the political scientist explained.
Asked why the country has plunged into such a crisis over free and fair elections, he elucidated that Bangladesh has almost been self-reliant but “why have we not been able to keep our head high? Why don’t we respect each other? The ray of hope may disappear facing only one shock.”
Emajuddin blamed the ruling Awami League for destroying democracy in the country. “What they have done in the past 10 years through deliberate policy is ruining of democracy,” he said adding that there is no scope to criticise the prime minister as such criticism would be considered as treason.
He also pointed out that development the country has attained in the recent past would not be consolidated unless there is democracy.
About the opposition’s election manifesto that proposes a balance in power between the president and the prime minister, the analyst regretted that Bangladesh’s constitutional provision of vesting executive power with the prime minister is not the case in other countries of parliamentary democracy.
Asked about prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s remarks about her advice to people to take money from the BNP and vote for the AL candidates, Emajuddin said, “With due respect to her, let me tell her that it is not expected of the prime minister.”
Asked if the low presence of foreign observers will affect the situation, he said they would be busy with Christmas celebration and holidays but keep their eye on the Bangladesh elections. “They will see how use of force has been a habit here… I say there is Almighty Allah who will see [what happens]. They [rulers] must pay some price, if not today, but tomorrow,” he added.
* This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in news story format by Khawaza Main Uddin