Call to boycott polls, intimidation, violence: A repeat of 2013-15 style undemocratic exercise by BNP-Jamaat

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Published on January 17, 2024
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Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday:

In the build-up to Bangladesh’s January 7 national election, the political landscape was fraught with tension. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by its acting chairman Tarique Rahman, mounted a campaign urging voters to boycott the election, in an attempt to disrupt the democratic process. Despite these efforts, the steadfast citizens of Bangladesh, committed to upholding democratic values, boldly participated in the polls, defying the orchestrated climate of fear and intimidation.

The Election Commission’s report paints a clear picture of the nation’s unwavering commitment to democracy. Even in the face of BNP’s attempts to instill fear through blockades, hartals, and even arson attacks, over 40 percent of the electorate bravely stepped forward to cast their votes. This significant voter turnout stands in stark opposition to the planned disruptions, showcasing the resilience and fortitude of Bangladesh’s democratic framework.

Despite BNP and its ally Jamaat’s concerted efforts to derail the electoral process through tactics designed to foster fear and chaos, the Bangladeshi people’s determination to exercise their democratic rights prevailed. The voter turnout, despite BNP’s call for a boycott, underscores a collective commitment to democracy, and highlights the need for visionary leadership within political parties. BNP’s decline, exacerbated by its prolonged absence from power and lack of effective leadership, serves as a cautionary tale of the consequences of a leadership vacuum on a party’s fortunes.

The rejection of the BNP’s anti-election stance by the Bangladeshi populace signifies not only a rejection of disruptive tactics but also a marked advancement in democratic maturity among the electorate. Their resistance to such tactics reflects a deep understanding of the importance of participating in the democratic process to shape the nation’s future.

Awami League’s fourth consecutive election victory is a testament to the people’s rejection of the BNP’s boycott appeal. By actively participating in the electoral process, the citizens have made their voices heard, reinforcing the notion that active democratic engagement is crucial for shaping a nation’s direction.

As Bangladesh transitions into the post-election phase, it is essential to reflect on the significance of this electoral process. This election transcends mere numbers and political affiliations; it stands as a testament to the deeply embedded democratic values in the Bangladeshi ethos. The electorate’s resilience in the face of adversity underscores their unwavering commitment to these principles.

Read: Despite political friction, election festivities underway in Bangladesh

International observers have lauded the electoral process in Bangladesh for its transparency, fairness, and adherence to democratic norms. Their positive assessment validates the Election Commission’s efforts in ensuring a fair and equitable electoral environment and strengthens confidence in the integrity of Bangladesh’s electoral system.

Moving forward, Bangladesh must capitalize on this democratic momentum. The pre-election disturbances should serve as impetus for reinforcing democratic institutions, enhancing election integrity, and fostering an inclusive political environment. The nation can draw valuable lessons from its citizens’ response to challenges, using it as an opportunity to fortify its democratic foundation.

In summary, the Bangladeshi population’s defiance of the election boycott call is a victory for their steadfast commitment to democracy. Despite attempts to sow fear and chaos, they have demonstrated an enduring allegiance to democratic values.

Writer: Professor, Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi