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Why Bangladesh's Jan 7 elections are crucial to its democratic, sustainable development

By Anup Sinha* 

The upcoming national election is now a hot topic in Bangladesh. There is no end to people's enthusiasm around the upcoming 12th National Assembly elections which is scheduled to held on January 7, 2024. Out of the 44 parties registered in the Election Commission, 27 parties are participating in the elections this time. The participation of 27 parties actually implies a participatory, competitive and contested election. 
There is no pressure, many parties have come to the polls with independent decisions. It is clear that the 12th National Assembly elections will become competitive and contested. Already there are candidates of 27 registered parties including Awami League, Jatiya Party and many independent candidates in 300 seats. 
Therefore, it is visible that there is no shortage of people’s enthusiasm around the elections. In 300 seats, the total number of candidates from various parties and independents stands at 1,896. Trinamool BNP and BNM are in the election. Meanwhile, multiple independent candidates are electing in all the constituencies.
The Election Commission is preparing to complete the polls properly to fulfill the country’s constitutional obligation. The President has authorized the deployment of the army to conduct the elections in a peaceful manner. Already 66 returning officers and 592 assistant returning officers have been appointed. Voting will be held in about 42,000 centers. The EC has also finalized the constituency wise voter list.
This election is significant for several reasons. The 12th National Assembly election is adding a different dimension to the scenario of various incidents and dramas. Since the exercise of suffrage is essential to the institutionalization of democracy and constitutions, without elections there is no transition to a modern welfare state. So common people participate in voting, making the election competitive and competitive is now everyone's goal. People of the country will participate in this election spontaneously. The election is going through all obstacles. That's the big thing. That’s why, upcoming 7 January 2024 national election crucial to democratic development in Bangladesh.
By nature, Bengalis are a celebratory nation, so there is no end to the enthusiasm of this nation even around elections. Elections are also important for the development and progress of the country. In this case, the decision to boycott the election is considered against the country and the people. It is regrettable that not only boycotts, but also resort to arson-murder-killing-terror and anarchy to prevent elections.
We have seen police killings in broad daylight on highways, burning of passenger buses, which is never acceptable in a civilized society. But BNP continues to wreak havoc with this sudden demand. Their demand is the so-called caretaker government. But the Supreme Court of the country struck down the caretaker government with the consent of the Fifteenth Amendment (May 10, 2011) and all major parties.
Now there is no option to opt through the caretaker government structure for constitutional obligations. Because it will weaken the obligation of the constitution. Therefore, where the entire nation is moving forward along the election roadmap, BNP is gradually falling behind and becoming isolated. The general population is peaceful, they do not like anything destructive. Therefore, the weapon of strike blockade has also become blunt.
Analyzing the history, it can be seen that the election has acted as an indicator of national awakening and directional change of this country. For example, the victory of Haque-Bhasani-Suhrawardy in the 'United Front' elections of 1954 was a blow against the Pakistani colonial regime.
Bengali self-identity played a role as a regulator of identification and individual identification. The participation and absolute victory of Bangladesh Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu in the 1970 elections prepared the direct stage for the liberation war.
Victory in the 1970 elections under the leadership of Bangabandhu could not be called a separatist movement by the outside world. Therefore, this boycott of BNP cannot be accepted as a wise decision.
The world is playing another geopolitical game with the upcoming elections. The US is brazenly interfering in our elections. This unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of an independent and sovereign state cannot be accepted in any way. America is threatening sanctions with baseless fanciful allegations of subtle rigging. But we are an independent sovereign nation. This is our freedom that we got in exchange for the blood of 3 million martyrs. We are not beholden to anyone; we will make our own decisions.
Our country will not run according to the prescription of any foreign power. The government system will change as per rules. We have a constitution, on the basis of which the country will move forward. Bangladesh is now moving forward along the development roadmap.
We are transitioning from a low-income country to a middle-income country. Sheikh Hasina announced the outline of Smart Bangladesh by 2041. Bangladesh is going to reach the level of a developed country by 2039.
The next election will surely be meaningful. The people of the country will exercise their right to vote by removing all obstacles, the elections will be fair and participatory. The continuity of the country's constitution and democracy will remain intact. This is desirable.
Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in food. Garments and manpower sector are increasing foreign exchange earnings. Bangladesh ranks second in shrimp export in the world. Also, another sector of Bangladesh's foreign exchange earnings is peacekeeping missions.
The gradual development and achievement of Bangladesh is the reason for the burning of some-anti liberation forces. So, these anti-development forces want to take Bangladesh backward. They have not brought any welfare to this country and will not bring it in the future. People of the country need to be careful and aware about them.
The progress that Bangladesh has made is evident in terms of visible development. We have built Padma Setu with our own money. Besides, metro rail in Dhaka, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tunnel, railway line up to Cox's Bazar, elevated expressway etc. are unique achievements of the government.
Payra seaport, Matarbari power plant, Rampal power plant and many more mega projects are waiting for inauguration in near future. These achievements are the product of good governance. On the other hand, the government has provided electricity to the rural areas of the country.
The country is gradually moving towards digitalization. The labor market export rate is increasing day by day. allowance, widow allowance etc. Housing is ensured for every homeless citizen through Asharyan scheme. In order to continue these developments, it is essential to maintain continuity in the governance of the country.
Some opposition coalitions know that they cannot come to power through normal constitutional processes, so they want to destabilize the country by resorting to subterfuge. They are muddying the waters to come to power through the back door.
By boycotting the 2014 elections, BNP has become isolated from the people. This time, the plan to boycott the election will take BNP further away from the people. Mandates are a natural way to change power, but some opposition coalitions seek to manipulate elections through so-called caretaker governments to come to power.
In the past we have seen elections through four caretaker government systems, is it 100% neutral? No one can be impartial except the mentally retarded. Elections under a caretaker government are not guaranteed to be 100% neutral.
Incidentally, where there is an Election Commission, why the question of a caretaker government arises - in the United States of America or India, no one disagrees with the change of power with the Election Commission, there is no question. So why do we talk so much?
The real thing is the practice and implementation of democracy. Don't they want our society to become more civilized and sophisticated according to the rules of democracy?
And there are examples of elections without some opposition parties in various countries in Asia and Africa. And here independent candidates with 27 parties are also a force. So, the next election will surely be meaningful. The people of the country will exercise their right to vote by removing all obstacles, the elections will be fair and participatory. The continuity of the country's constitution and democracy will remain intact. This is desirable.
Even in the midst of various problems and crises, including arson, the country will move forward by arranging this inclusive the election. All concerned must behave responsibly so that the elections to be held on 7 January 2024 can be free, fair and impartial. A fair election can give a new direction to the nation. Prevention of corruption, increasing absolute tolerance, practicing democracy, strengthening the electoral system, accountable public administration, effective parliament - above all, the new government should focus on fulfilling the public expectations.
---
*Security and strategic affairs researcher and freelance columnist based in Bangladesh

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