Parliament Election and Democracy of Bangladesh

Hiren Pandit: The 12th National Parliament elections could be a significant event. The people of the country elected their representatives. Foreigners were very excited to watch our election. An ordeal for all. Hope everyone passed this ordeal. The Election Commission is fulfilling its due responsibilities for free and fair elections. The Election Commission has been made fully independent by the new law.

The Election Commission worked independently and organized a free fair election. People always want fair, free, and peaceful elections in a fear-free environment. This demand is the fundamental right of the people. People do not want to stumble from getting this right. A large part of the population is common people. It is the responsibility of the elected government of a democratic state to make the common people happy. First, there was a need for tighter security and the army as a striking force so that the voters could reach the center safely and cast their votes without fear. This election has opened up new horizons to the nation and it has been possible to prove that a free, fair, impartial, and creditable election is possible under a party government.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal claimed that the 12th National Parliament elections were free, fair, and impartial, saying that 41.8 percent of the votes were cast. He said that there are some challenges in the elections under the party government. The election under the party government has been free, fair, and impartial because of the sincerity and cooperation of the government. There were fears that voter turnout would be even lower. Attempts were made to resist indirectly by boycotting elections.

But we have seen people spontaneously go to the center and exercise their right to vote independently. It would not be wrong to say that Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina’s strategic policy has been successful in the 12th National Parliament elections. The average voter turnout of 41.8 percent across the country, excluding the main opposition party BNP, undoubtedly left no room to question the election.

Apart from that, the opinion of foreign observers about the election also highlights the acceptability of the election. The results show that many heavyweight candidates and ministers of the current government have also been defeated in the elections. This also proves fair elections. Voting is a constitutional right of citizens. Article 11 of the Constitution provides for this. It is a fundamental right of a citizen. It is guaranteed as the right of expression in Article 39 of the Constitution. Human rights too.

It is also declared as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The National Assembly election was held on January 7. The people of the country wanted a peaceful and safe election, that’s how our national election happened. Everyone has the right to do politics in a peaceful environment. The government also promised to provide all kinds of cooperation in organizing peaceful elections. The government has provided all kinds of support.

The Election Commission has managed to organize a free, fair, and acceptable election by working completely independently. A free, impartial, and fair election was expected by all. Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League president have given an unprecedented and peaceful election to the people to keep her promises. Under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, all the forces, including the pro-liberation forces worked to organize a beautiful election victory.

Even if the party government is in power, if the Election Commission is allowed to function independently, there can be good elections. This is the most positive aspect of this election. A significant number of people went to the polling booths to vote despite the obstruction of voters and various propaganda by boycotters. People voted and polling was done peacefully. There were some isolated incidents at two places and the Election Commission was cautious about these.

A relatively good election was held within our electoral culture. The Election Commission has worked independently even under the party government. For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, the candidature of a ruling party MP candidate and a sitting MP has been canceled. A precedent was set through it. Many were jailed and fined. Armed forces, BGB, police, and RAB were deployed all over the country on election day, so there was no chance of a fight. Those who could have prevented the conflict did not get a chance to come in front of the armed forces and create any kind of chaos. Apart from this, polling agents of individual candidates did not create any kind of obstacles, so there were no untoward incidents in the elections across the country.

​The election was participatory and peaceful. People were able to vote with great joy. This time the election commission has managed the polling management very well. People voted without any harassment or trouble. A fair and impartial election was held and this election is acceptable to all. 41.8 percent of votes were cast in the election. Had there been no sabotage and terrorist activities, there would have been more votes. The disinformation spread by the boycotters created a kind of panic around polling day among the people.

In the beginning, the voter turnout was a little low but as the day progressed, the voter turnout increased. Most importantly, the election process was conducted fairly and transparently. Most of the progressive parties who believed in the spirit of the liberation war participated in the 12th National Parliament elections. The election has been fair except for a few isolated incidents, this opinion has been expressed by the governments of many of our friendly countries, including observers from abroad.

Many observers said they visited the centers and the election atmosphere was good. We have seen through the media that the Ambassadors and High Commissioners of many countries serving in Bangladesh congratulated the Prime Minister after the announcement of the election results. Governments and heads of state of many countries have congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Most political parties participating in the 12th National Parliament elections did not receive any complaints of irregularities or lack of transparency.

The Election Commission immediately took legal action after receiving reports of irregularities in some centers. Apart from this, the commission also canceled the candidature of an Awami League-nominated candidate 30 minutes before the end of voting. Which is a first for any selection commission. The Election Commission and all the standards of transparency during the election have successfully passed the ordeal in the words of many. Foreign observers and governments of foreign countries have also congratulated for the transparency of the elections.

The 12th National Parliament tried to blatantly interfere in elections and our internal politics beforehand. Many countries including Russia, China, and India went against their position and said that the issues are the internal affairs of Bangladesh and they repeatedly presented the clear statement that the people of this country will decide. It is the people of the country who have ruled against violence and have a strong role to play in creating the context for peaceful and question-free elections. The opinion that democracy has won in Bangladesh also comes from many foreign quarters. In this context, there may be various equations behind the hostile position of some Western countries, including the United States, the opinion of the analysts is not unreasonable.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has clearly said that she is responsible to the people of Bangladesh. No matter how much this election is called a ‘one-sided election’, ‘joke election’ ‘farce election’ etc., this election was essential to preserve constitutional continuity. If there is goodwill, a good election can be conducted even under a party government, so it has been proved. Awami League has formed the government for the fourth time after running the government for 15 consecutive years from 2009 to 2023.

In this election, there were 200 national-level observers and 70 international observers. Those who were in these groups were familiar faces, skilled in election monitoring. There were former Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States and former Chief of Staff of the White House National Security Council Alexander Burton Gray, former Congressman Jim Bates of the United States, former Member of Parliament of the New South Wales Legislative Council Shawket Musselmane, OSCE Certified Election Observer Terry L. Easley, Member of Parliament of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress Syed Ali Zaheer, Asia Times Special Correspondent Javier Piedra, former Vice President of Election Commission of Maldives Amjad Mostafa and several other countries observers.

The day after the election, they held a Meet the Press program at the National Press Club. The 12th National Parliament elections were held peacefully and with the participation of the common people. Considering the overall situation, the 12th National Parliament election of Bangladesh has been free, fair, and festive. Observers feel that the people of Bangladesh are very serious about their right to vote, which is rarely found in other countries. They find the interest and enthusiasm of the common people of Bangladesh to vote very encouraging.

Despite criticizing the twelfth parliamentary elections for free, fair, and democratic standards, the United States and the United Kingdom have pledged to advance relations with Bangladesh. The United States and the United Kingdom have taken into account the fact that the Awami League has won a majority in the elections. Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute of the Wilson Center of the United States, said, ‘His observation about the US response to the Bangladesh election is that the current policy of the US towards Dhaka will necessarily continue with emphasis on democracy and human rights.

However, in addition to this, the United States will continue to try to strengthen its strategic partnership with Bangladesh. US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that the United States supports the people of Bangladesh and their desire for democracy, freedom of peaceful gathering and freedom of expression. “In the days ahead, the United States is committed to partnering with Bangladesh to deepen people-to-people and economic ties, in support of human rights and civil society in Bangladesh, to advance a shared vision for an open Indo-Pacific,” said a spokesman for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London. The UK is aware of the election results.’

China will support Bangladesh according to the law in implementing the political agenda of the new government. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang have congratulated Sheikh Hasina on her re-appointment as Prime Minister. Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a message and said, “The Commonwealth is ready to partner with Bangladesh to meet Bangladesh’s national priorities.” Japan made a statement welcoming the 12th National Parliament Election.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) congratulated Sheikh Hasina on her party’s landslide victory in the national elections and expressed its interest in continuing to work with her government. Is the use of force ever consistent with democracy? Unfortunately for us, we always practice democracy on the face but in reality, we are dependent on power. As long as this continues, this crisis will continue until we cannot count on democracy as a way of life and a value. In this election, people have elected us by voting, many of our independents have also been elected and elected from other parties, and the people of the country have been elected by voting spontaneously.

Awami League President mentioned, this victory is not my victory, I think it is the people’s victory. Because the right that the people have here, the power to form the government is in their hands, which is my long struggle, the right of the people to vote, has been done properly through this election, she said in an event organized by foreign observers and journalists. Awami League’s goal this year is to transition the country from digital to smart Bangladesh. In this context, she said, technological capability is necessary to survive in the world competition in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. For this reason, it was announced to build ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by combining the four pillars of ‘Smart Citizen’, ‘Smart Government’, ‘Smart Economy’, and ‘Smart Society’. Implementation of Smart Bangladesh mentions work in each area. It has been promised to make Bangladesh a hunger-poverty-free Smart Sonar Bangla by 2041 if elected by the people.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher

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