By J Rahman
I wrote in October that if trends in recent opinion polls continue, BNP could get 47% votes against AL’s 39% in the coming election. Based on the past elections, the two parties vote shares may imply BNP getting around 220 seats, against AL’s likely tally of 60.
There is another way to translate vote shares to seat numbers. The polls suggest there is a 10 point swing against AL (from 49% to 39%). Even if BNP had not gained any popularity, such a swing, if applied uniformly across the country, would have cost AL nearly 80 seats where the 2008 winning margin was less than 10%. Add to that the 14 point swing to BNP (from 33% to 47%), and potentially AL could be reduced to less than 30 seats.
Of course, we have already seen 154 people, from AL and allies, elected unopposed.
I wonder if it would be a stretch to compare this election with the one held in the occupied Bangladesh in 1971. In 1971, when the Al-Badr and Al-Shams were carrying out their atrocities, their Pakistani masters also held elections in the seats vacated by the ‘outlawed’ Awami League. That by-election saw 55 people elected unopposed to East Pakistan provincial assembly and Pakistan national assembly.
People who flock to Shahbag probably don’t have time to read up on history. They are busy with online discussions about those dastardly Pakistanis who were questioning our quest for justice in their parliament.
Is it ironic that the Pakistani parliament is actually a genuinely elected one?
‘It’s a fascist regime’ is a common refrain in Bangladesh. Every opposition party in our history has accused the government of being fascist. And every opposition in the past has been wrong. Until now.
Fascism doesn’t mean any odd dictatorship or undemocratic regime. Mere intolerance of the opposition is not enough to be fascist. To be a fascist regime, a government needs a large enough popular base, a cult of personality, and a dogma/ideology which is going to invoked by academics and intelligentsia to support the regime.
The 1/11 or Ershad regimes were not fascist — they had none of these ingredients.
Bakshal had the cult of personality, ideology and intellectual cheerleaders. Had Sheikh Mujib instituted Bakshal in 1972, he would also have had massive popular support. But by 1975, it was too late.
BNP in 2001 had the popular support to become fascist, but for all its manifold mistakes, it wasn’t fascist because there was no ideology or intellectual support.
The AL is still popular enough, has a sufficiently coherent ideology and a cult of personality, and a very strong intellectual support base.
When Ershad or BNP stepped over the line in terms of censorship or rigged election or sheer decency (think about Mrs Zia’s birthday celebration), there were massive outcries. Nothing like that has happened under the current government because those who are supposed to protest are all on the same side as the government.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing —said Edmund Burke. As I write this, for far too many otherwise sensible intelligent people, what Imran Khan says in an elected parliament in Pakistan causes more anger than the lack of an elected parliament in Bangladesh.
And that’s why, dear reader, for the first time in our history, fascism appears to be imminent in Bangladesh.