Nasty blow for democracy

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Free and fair elections are a basic requirement for the success of a country’s democracy. For holding a credible election, a strong electoral system is imperative.
Thus, the state of the electoral system describes largely the state of democracy in a country. And if any force wants to paralyse a country’s democracy, it must damage the country’s electoral system, a method for enabling the electorate to make democratic choices.
The way the electoral system has been bulldozed through in the just concluded upazila parishad elections by the ruling Awami League men’s widespread rigging has clearly exposed the fragile state of the country’s democracy.
Though assigned with ensuring an atmosphere conducive to fair polls, the administration has been a mere spectator in the upazila lections. None other than the ruling party, hell bent on securing victory in the polls, carried out the assault on the electoral system.
In this process, the inefficiency and failure of the Election Commission in delivering on its constitutional mandates has had no limit. It did nothing significant to protect the electoral system and people’s voting rights from being crushed.
In the midst of the staggered upazila elections, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed left the country on March 3 for the United States for an indefinite period. His action left the EC bereft of leadership.
In another whimsical move, he personally empowered Election Commissioner Abdul Mobarak to carry out his “routine work”.
The story did not stop here. Mobarak has had the EC mired in more controversy through making ridiculous comments regarding the mode of the upazila elections.
The prevailing situation clearly hints at why the AL-led government picked Rakibuddin, Mobarak and three other election commissioners in February 2012 to constitute the EC.
The EC’s activities have proved that the AL-led government did not want to constitute a strong EC by appointing individuals with leadership skills and courage.
The current EC first served the government and ruling AL by holding the controversial and voter less January 5 parliamentary election, which allowed the AL to retain power.
And then the upazila parishad elections came. The EC could not make any difference this time too.
In the upazila elections, the EC might have forgotten its constitutional functions to supervise, control and direct each and every step of the process to ensure that the polls were held in a free and fair manner.
The unfair polls have damaged the EC’s credibility and people’s confidence in the country’s electoral system and the EC as well. Neither had ever faced such a critical situation over the past two decades since the restoration of democracy after overthrow of the Ershad-led autocratic regime in 1990.
The herculean task, accomplished by the past Election Commission led by ATM Shamsul Huda during the past caretaker government’s tenure restored people’s confidence in the electoral system. Their efforts also had taken the EC to new heights while it was mired in controversy under the leadership of Justice MA Aziz who was made the CEC by the previous BNP-led government in 2005.
But all achievements were buried in the upazila elections, exposing again an ugly face of democracy.
It takes a long time for the evolution of the electoral system in a country. It evolves from continuous care of some major forces, including the government, the election commission and the political parties.
But when these major forces stand in the way of an improvement of the electoral system, democracy cannot flourish in the country.
Article 11of the constitution notes that the Republic shall be a democracy … and in which effective participation by the people through their elected representatives in administration at all levels shall be ensured.
The upazila polls however have triggered crucial questions. Can we still claim that ours is a democracy in the true sense? And have the upazila elections ensured people’s effective participation in the upazila administration through the chairmen and vice-chairmen who, ironically, won the polls by rigging?

Source: The Daily Star