Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Breathing space!

The results so far indicate that the AL incumbent will win the mayoral election in Chittagong. The political classes in Bangladesh have been keeping their eye on this one. Even foreign institutions such as the International REpublican Institute (IRI) were there, having a look. Thousands of people were milling around into the early hours of the morning, ostensibly to ensure that counting would be done properly. To some, it must been reminiscent of Kiev..............
Counting had stopped unexpectedly at 9.30. After pressure , it resumed an hour later. The papers are full of stories of irregularities, but they do not at this juncture look to have been significant.
This restart of counting (and acceptance of the inevitable) was indeed a wise move from the government. They must have known that any signs of widespread rigging would have been pounced upon by an opposition itching to launch a movement.
They can now try and take the winds out of the sails of the "political reform movement". If they want to play a masterstroke, the government can now set up an all-party forum to examine the issue of electoral reform, calling in civil society and interested donors. They can do this from a position of strength, showing the public that elections can be more or less free and fair, and drag this on for six months.
By agreeing to a debate, the opposition will lose its momentum. If they do not agree and take to the street, then the government can show that the opposition is actually only keen on trouble and insincere.
What this country least needs is another year of instability on the basis of electoral procedures. Ak-dofa (one-point) movements are merely diversions away from our fundamental problems.
Unity on an "agenda for change" makes more sense as far as a hard-pressed population is concerned.
If Bangladesh is really at that mythical "take-off stage", then we need to understand exactly how we are going to take advantage of that and propel this country to the next level.
Changing the guard through nicely run elections is not enough. We have had three reasonably conducted elections and haven't much to show for it.
There is a window of opportunity for the rest of the year to achieve consensus what the real agenda should be.
This window would have closed had there been trouble in Chittagong. It will now close early next year as we enter the cycle of electoral politics.


Post a Comment

<< Home