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The Journey: Its Nuances & New Vistas

Congratulations Bangladesh!
The South Asian nation assured the global community on December 30 that it would follow the path of democracy for another five years. The Parliamentary Elections in Bangladesh was held on the penultimate day of 2018 and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s Awami League and its allies won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats contested, amid violence and accusations of mass rigging. The landslide victory has helped PM Hasina secure her third consecutive term. The formation of a democratic government in Bangladesh was very necessary to keep the successful journey of this particular system of government intact in South Asia.
For India and other neighbouring countries, the successful and peaceful election in Bangladesh was much desirable. Since its emergence as an Independent nation in 1971, Bangladesh has experienced attacks on democracy on numerous occasions. Like Pakistan, Bangladesh witnessed coup d’etat and military rule in the past! And the military rulers tried their best to murder democracy. However, the nation reached a new horizon on December 30, 2018, as it got three consecutive governments through General Elections. It’s a different feeling altogether for the Bangladeshis. The nation deserves appreciation for this successful journey in the path of democracy.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Political stability in Bangladesh is very important for its immediate neighbour India, as the two countries share close ties on various issues, such as countering terrorism and scientific research. Moreover, it is easier for any democratically elected government to work together with another democratically elected government. That’s why New Delhi congratulated PM Hasina on her victory immediately after the Election Commission of Bangladesh declared the outcome of the polls.

Although Bangladesh’s Parliament has 350 seats in total, 50 of them are reserved for women and allotted proportional to the overall vote. While the Awami League and its allies have won 288 seats (or 76.88% of votes), main Opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) secured just seven seats (12.33%). No one could expect such an outcome. Even the 71-year-old PM thought that her party could get more than 151 seats and form the government. The PM – who contested from Gopalgaunj-III constituency – received 232,000 votes, while her nearest rival S M Jilani of the BNP got just 123 votes.

The BNP had to take part in the election without their party chief (and former PM) Begum Khaleda Zia, who is serving a 17-year jail term for corruption. Still, the BNP and its coalition partners had appeared confident that they could form the government. However, the outcome shocked the Oppositions. During a press conference in Dhaka on December 31, senior BNP leader Kamal Hossain condemned the vote as farcical, saying: “We urge the Election Commission to void this farcical result immediately. We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia

Ali Riaz, the senior Professor at the Department Of Politics and Government at Illinois State University in the US, stressed: “It was a travesty of an election. What happened throughout the country, polling centre by centre, from driving out the polling agents to ballot stuffing, can’t be called an election, let alone a credible election.” He also said: “The sheer scale of the victory, as of now, reveals the nature and scale of the rigging. It cannot be described as the verdict of the voters.” Riaz expressed serious concern over the death of 17 people in Bangladesh on the Election Day. Some have even compared this result and the procedure with the Provincial Elections of neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal in 2016.
Others believe that the verdict clearly shows that majority of the people in Bangladesh still has faith in Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. They also want corrupt Khaleda to stay behind the bars. In other words, the people are ready to fight corruption. It is felt that Sheikh Hasina – who is all set to become the PM for the consecutive third time – must surely take this message seriously.

December 31 was a special day for Bangladesh, as the nation – riding a boat (the election symbol of Awami League that signifies the attachment to rural Bengal) – has began a fresh journey towards democracy. The entire world congratulates the South Asian nation on this occasion! Now, it is up to Sheikh Hasina to fulfil her ambitious economic agenda that has (so far) propelled Bangladesh past larger neighbours India and Pakistan by some development measures.

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