News Analysis

An ugly face of our democracy

Shakhawat Liton

Each of the 9.19 crore voters has the constitutional right to vote in a general election to choose his or her representative, who will take part in governing the country on his or her behalf.
Article 122 (1) of the constitution upholds this right by emphatically stating that the elections to parliament shall be on the basis of adult franchise. Also, Article 65 (2) asserts the pre-eminence of voters when it notes that parliament shall consist of three hundred members to be elected by q. [Elections to women’s reserved seats in parliament are not the subject of discussion here.]
Voters’ right has been given pre-eminent position in our constitution where it declares the country as a Republic and makes democracy, one of the four fundamental state principles.
The January 5 parliamentary election, however, presents a different picture which can in no way be pleasant for voters and for democracy. The fate of more than half of the 300 parliamentary constituencies has already been determined much before the polling day. As many as 154 candidates are being declared elected without a single vote being caste, denying voters their constitutional “Right”.
Now it will not matter whether voters go to the polling stations on January 5 to determine the fate of contestants for the remaining 146 constituencies. Fewer than 400 aspirants are vying for those seats. It is certain that the AL nominated candidates will bag almost all of the remaining seats. If some others want to win, they will need the support of the AL.
So, voters are not important any more. They have little say in this process. The will of the AL is the most important determining factor for the winning 154 seats.
Poor HM Ershad announced his quitting the election. He urged his party men to withdraw their nomination papers. Those who did not follow his directive will be blessed with AL favours. Already 20 of them are being declared elected uncontested as the AL withdrew its candidates from those seats to give the JP leaders a walkover. Some more JP leaders will see “victory” on January 5 as the AL is going to favour them.
It is also the generosity of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She on Saturday said her party had reached a compromise with the other parties in the “polls-time government” over a sharing of parliamentary seats. “We’ve withdrawn candidatures from some seats through liaising with other parties,” she said.
In her words, her party did it to ensure a “congenial atmosphere” during the January 5 election.
Hasina has made more shocking remarks. She said the AL would have conceded a “walkover” to the BNP in some constituencies if it had joined the “all-party polls-time government.”
Her remarks again prove voters are not important here. Her wish gets pre-eminence over voters’ rights. She can distribute favours as per her will through pre-election horse-trading. Hence democracy and election got new definition.
Much before the polling day of January 5, the AL alone has already bagged 129 seats uncontested and with its support two components of its alliance, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Workers Party, have obtained five. Hasina’s adviser Anwar Hossain Manju’s Jatiya Party has also got two. This means much before the actual voting, the AL alone is close to the magic number of 151 to form a new government. If leaders of the Ershad-led JP join the AL, to ensure which Ershad is being confined at the CMH, then Hasina will have the magic number, enough to form the new government without people having expressed their will through ballots.
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
The January 5 election runs counter to this declaration made more than six decades ago. So what will be the basis of the authority of Hasina’s new government set to be formed after this election?