Warning vote

July 25, 2013 11:36 am 702 comments __
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By Haroon Habib

The ruling Awami League would do well to analyse the drubbing it received in the recent corporation elections and take corrective steps if it wants to best the Islamists in the next general election.

BANGLADESH is only five months away from a general election if the schedule in the Constitution is adhered to. However, the conduct of the election remains uncertain because of the political stand-off between the ruling and opposition alliances over the need for a neutral interim government during the election. While the opposition wants such a government, the ruling alliance rejects the proposition.

The election is crucial for both alliances. For the ruling alliance, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League, winning the election is crucial to, among other things, complete the war crimes trials relating to the nation’s liberation war 42 years ago. While some Islamist cohorts of the Pakistan Army have already been convicted for crimes against humanity, some others, mostly belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami, face charges of genocide, rape, arson and kidnapping in the two tribunals.

The trial is viewed as a moral and historical obligation to the nation: in the 1971 war three million people lost their lives and over two million women were raped. The Sheikh Hasina government also wants to return to power to implement its policies to consolidate the secular “pro-liberation” spirit and restore regional cooperation in order to boost amity and cooperation.

For the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Khaleda Zia and the Jamaat-e-Islami, the fundamentalist party that is desperate to dominate the politics of Bangladesh, whose formation it had violently opposed, the election is perhaps more important. The rightist-fundamentalist combine supported by Islamist groups wants to foil the war crimes trial, understandably for political reasons, and undo the “anti-Islamic” and “anti-Bangladesh” measures of the Sheikh Hasina government.

If the results of the June-July elections to the five city corporations of Gazipur near Dhaka, Rajshahi in the north, Barisal in the south, Sylhet in the north-east and Khulna in the west are any indication, the Awami League-led ruling alliance has reasons to worry. In all the corporations, BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami-backed candidates, supported actively by Hefazat-e-Islam, the madrassa-based new radical organisation, defeated the ruling party-backed incumbent mayors by big margins. The “pro-liberation” alliance has seen a sharp fall in its popularity among the urban populace, a segment that is known to shape the national mood.

“With  courtesy  of Frontline magazine, India”

(Haroon Habib,  a Bangladesh Freedom Fighter, writer and columnist.)

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