Election 2014: Awami League vs. Awami League

Special Correspondent:

With over 30,000 opposition activists and all major leaders of the opposition in jail, the leader of the main opposition party under house arrest, Bangladesh is not exactly the example of blooming democracy as the current government would want you to believe.

The general election of January 2014 was never going to be an enterprise that will solve the current political deadlock, another reality the current regime wants people to overlook.

The election took place because it was necessary to maintain the constitutional process, the ruling party says. Of course, the Awami League made it a ‘constitutional necessity’ by amending the constitution using its parliamentary majority.

The result was an election where “turnout was about 22 per cent, down from 87 per cent in the last vote”. An astonishing drama unfolded before the whole nation as television channels telecast live videos of empty centres from around the country.

Here we provide our readers with a gist of media reports from around the globe and a summary of local coverage of the election. The reports in the world media have been somewhat distracted from the bizarre one sidedness of the election by the violence, whereas local newspapers have reported extensively on the widespread rigging and the absolute futility of the whole process.

The world media reports on the 5th January 2014 general election have focused on the widespread violence and the credibility of the election.

The national media on the other hand focused mainly on the acceptance of the extremely controversial election and slamming the government for the “shameful election”.

Reuters reported that “[t]he impasse between the country’s two dominant parties, which shows no sign of easing, undermines the poll’s legitimacy and is fueling worries of economic stagnation and further violence in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160 million.”

All news media reported the incidents of violence with importance.

The Boston Globe reported that “[p]olice opened fire to stop protesters from seizing a polling center in the country’s northern Rangpur district, killing two people, authorities said. In a similar incident in neighboring Nilphamari district, police fired into about two dozen protesters, killing two people. Police gave no further details, but Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper said the four men who were killed belonged to the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party.”

Reporting on the violence and security measures the Voice of America wrote “Tens of thousand of troops were deployed across the country in the lead-up to Sunday’s elections, but their presence largely failed to stem the violence.”

Times of India reported that “[d]eadly violence flared across the country despite tens of thousands of security personnel deployed to maintain law and order. Police said 17 people, mostly opposition cadres, and a security personnel were killed after the overnight deaths of an election officer and two other people.”

The Washington Post made a photo story with photos by AP and A. M. Ahad. The photos show violence on protesters by the police, violence on ruling party activists by opposition activists, tight security in the country, protests, and violence by Jamaat activists.

The international newspapers and media also widely reported on the legitimacy and credibility of the election.

Mentioning the strike announced by the opposition protesting the election The Telegraph commented that the strike “has little chance of thwarting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s re-election in what is effectively a one-party contest.”

Many news media emphasized that the one sided election might propel more violence.

To look into the possible outcome of the election the Independent of the UK quoted Dr. Asif Nazrul: “Political forces with extreme views could emerge in the face of government crackdown and repressive measures,” said Asif Nazrul, a law teacher and analyst.”

Al Jazeera reported “[v]oters in modest numbers cast ballots on Sunday amid heavy security, in an election shunned by international observers. The low voter turnout could pile new pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to find a compromise with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for holding new elections.”

The Montreal Gazette reported that “[t]urnout was about 22 per cent, down from 87 per cent in the last vote, with officials saying the violence and boycott by the opposition kept voters away.”

A BBC report on the election read “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is assured of victory, with government candidates already declared victors by default in many seats. She had rejected opposition demands for her to step down and set up a neutral government to oversee the poll.”

The New York Times reported that “[p]ro-government candidates ran unopposed in more than half of Parliament’s 300 seats; in those districts, local elections were not held, leaving 48 million registered voters without any opportunity to vote. The teams of American and European observers who have been a regular presence in Bangladesh declined to monitor the process this year, saying the elections were flawed, leaving only delegations from India and Bhutan.”

CBC News reported that “the opposition and its allies are boycotting the vote, a move that undermines the legitimacy of the election and makes it unlikely that the polls will stem a wave of political violence that killed at least 275 people in 2013.”

Commenting on the unusual election atmosphere RTE news reported that “with fewer than half of the 300 seats being contested, voters cast ballots in modest numbers amid heavy security in polling that lacked the festivity typical of Bangladeshi elections and was shunned by international observers as flawed.”

The Christian Science Monitor wrote that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s refusal to step down “…and the ensuing boycott have undermined whatever chance there was that the election could bring her government broad public legitimacy.”

German online news and community site reported that “Hasina’s ruling Awami League is certain to win the election, with many seats going to government candidates by default.”

Writing on the credibility of the January 5th election the BBC in its Q and A section on Bangladesh General Election posted that “the credibility of Bangladesh’s election process has come under scrutiny because the Awami League (AL) is expected to secure a landslide win in the absence of a credible opposition. The United States and the European Union have refused to send observers, further raising questions over the electoral process.”

“Officials announced some results Sunday night. But disputes over the vote appeared to be far from over, with the country’s largest opposition party calling for a fresh round of protests starting Monday against what they called “farcical polls.”” CNN reported.

National media

The national media have generally been very critical of the general election held yesterday.

Prothom Alo slammed the government with scathing headline titled “Vote rigging in a shameful election”. The report compared Sheikh Hasina’s attempt to stage a one sided election with that of President Ershad and Khaleda Zia’s similar attempt in the past. “Every element of a disgraceful event was present during the one sided election held yesterday” the report said.

The Daily Amar Desh online reported that there has been a “revolt of the masses” against this election with the people boycotting the poll en masse. Innumerable centres across the country did not have one single voter attending the poll. Many Awami League supporters did not vote, Amar Desh reports.

The Daily Naya Diganta headline read “Voting ends amid boycott and violence, 20 killed”. The daily reported that the election day was unusual for lack of participation and absence of typical festive mood observed during Bangladeshi elections. “There were 585 foreign observers in the 2008 general election. This time there were 4. 2 from Bhutan and 2 from India” Naya Diganta reported.

The headline of Amader Shomoy read “A prearranged and fake victory”. The report said that the outcome of the election will be irrelevant and the Awami League government has not attained any moral authority through this election.

Most of the mainstream newspapers have been very critical and published negative report about the elction. Kaler Kantha headline read “A violent election without voters”. Special correspondent of the daily Inqilab reported that “Despite orders from the high up in government the administration and police failed to bring in voters.”

The Daily Sangram report said that “The people have rejected the election”. The newspaper reported that there have been unprecedented vote rigging and centres were taken over by the government supporters.

Manabzamin’s sarcastic headline read “Sheikh Hasina secure the first place with invisible votes”.

Bangladesh Protidin reported that even in the one sided election, where Awami League could not lose, there have been massive rigging. The daily Zugantar reported the incidents of violence across the country and the low turnout.

Bhorer Kagoj and Janakantha stood out amidst other reporting. The newspapers ran reports supporting the government. The Bhorer Kagoj headline read “Even vandalism could not avert voters from voting.”

Source: BD Chronicle