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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2734

Bangladesh Election: "Vox Populi Vox Dui – God's Voice is People voice"

R. N. Trivedi - Diplomatic Correspondent, Asian Tribune Dhaka

Dhaka, 31 December (Asiantribune.com) : The Awami League-led grand alliance has swept back to power after being seven years out of office with a stunning landslide victory in an environment of free and fair elections, that clearly showed the people's verdict for a change and has consigned the BNP-led four-party alliance to the political wilderness. The grand alliance has clinched two-thirds majority with 262 seats compared to its archrival BNP-led four-party alliance's 32, down from 217 in 2001.

It may be recalled, analyzing the political scenario in Bangladesh AsianTribune published in its issue on 28th December forecasted: "This time Awami League led Grand Alliance will win and form the Government with massive landslide victory." It comes true after 48 hours on 29th late night.

However, Jamaat-e-Islami, the BNP's key ally in the four-party alliance, has seen its once-proud seat tally plummet from 17 seats in 2001, to a humiliating two sears, in what appears to be a wholesale rejection of the party by the voters.

The Election Commission Secretariat has so far announced unofficial results of 295 constituencies. The official results will be published in the Government Gazette, reports the Daily star. The defeat of the four-party alliance can be seen as the majesty of the public verdict against the unprecedented corruption and tyranny that marked its five-year rule.

There is much conjecture that the victory of the grand alliance was the outcome of participation of the first-time voters, who turned out in record numbers, and women voters, who outnumbered the men. A key to the elections was information, both about the corruption of major candidates and parties, that had come to light due to media reports and the anti-corruption campaign of the past two years, and also about the individual candidates that was mandated by the election laws and made available to the voters by the Election Commission (EC), media, and civil society organizations.

It was an experience never seen before in independent Bangladesh: A record number of voters -- 85 percent -- marched up to polling centers and waited for hours to cast their votes. Defying the winter chill in rural areas, men and women, young and old, some on crutches or in wheelchairs, started queuing up patiently for the opportunity to pick their representatives. Young voters came out in droves, their eyes full of excitement, looking for their serial numbers, clearly eager to vote for the first time. Election buntings hanging from strings festooned the roads and walkways and brought a festive edge to the day, the report added. The Awami League President Sheikh Hasina flashing V signThe Awami League President Sheikh Hasina flashing V sign

The BNP has complained that there were irregularities, ballot rigging and forgery in 220 poll centers in 72 constituencies across the country during the just concluded Ninth Parliamentary General Election. With early unofficial results going in favour of the Awami League-led grand alliance, BNP filed the complaints with the Election Commission last night. Newspapers hailed Sheikh Hasina's performance, with the English-language Daily Star describing the win as "stunning" proof that the country was "hungry for change."

The Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Grand Alliance and Prime Minister in waiting, will ‘Meet the Press’ at the National Press Club, Dhaka tomorrow.

The Daily Star editor Mr Mahfuz Anam entitled "You shall reap as you sow", In his commentary opined: "BNP is made to pay dearly for its five years of mal-governance. Yesterday votes was a total, complete and comprehensive rejection of the BNP and its allies for corruption, political violence, nepotism, Hawa Bhaban, the role of Tarique, Arafat, Falu, Harris, Babar, etc. for obliterating the distinction between the State, government and the party, politicizing every branch of administration, for instituting a culture of impunity where party henchmen considered themselves above the law. Finally for turning a blind eye as terrorism and fundamentalism spread its ugly tentacles throughout the country.

While it is true that Bangladesh headed the list of the most corrupt country in the world in the last year of AL rule, however it continued to be judged as such for the next four continuous years while BNP ruled the country. Instead of attempting to curb corruption people close to the Prime Minister became involved with it and a criminal nexus seemed to envelope the party hierarchy says Mr AnamElection ResultsElection Results.

First, the assassination of Ahsanullah Master, then the mass murder of 22 people while attempting to kill the opposition leader Sheikh Hasina and then the killing of S.A.M.S Kibria shocked the nation to the very core. What however made them disgusted is the BNP government's refusal to go after the real culprit. This, in our view, totally destroyed the party's claim to stand for rule of law and respect for human rights.

The setting up of Hawa Bhavan and it's becoming an alternative centre of power with its attending corruption involving Prime Minister's elder son not only greatly damaged the reputation of BNP as a clean party, but also greatly damaged the image of Khaleda Zia as the prime minister. The reputation of people extremely close to the PM like Harris Chowdhury and Musadeq Ali Falu and Prime Minister's younger son Arafat Rahman Coko further sunk the reputation of BNP. A man hitherto respected for his integrity, veteran finance minister Saifur Rahman, destroyed his reputation by allowing his sons into illegal business and permitting them to exert undue influence on NBR and related institutions. The final blow to reputation came when he, being the finance minister, 'whitened' his own undeclared money.

While politicization of the administration was a known phenomenon, however it reached is zenith under the BNP. Almost all branches of government came under direct and indirect influence of the party with the health ministry experiencing its most blatant abuse."

Mahfuz Anam pointed : BNP's devastating defeat is AL's most severest warning. The later must not forget for a moment how our people punish, and most severely so, when ruling parties fail to keep their promise to the people and live up to the latter's expectation of them. Two thirds majority has always been a curse to those who got them. That is truer still if the victory is even bigger. The victors of yesterday's election must bear that in mind every moment of their coming five year tenure.

The Awami League, formed in June 1948, Sheikh Hasina's father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding father of Bangladesh led Bangladesh in its liberation struggle against Pakistan in 1971 and was assassinated in a 1975 military coup.

In 1977, through a martial law ordinance, secularism was dropped from the Constitution, the guiding principles of state and substituted with "absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah" and in 1988, "Islam was declared to be the state religion." by two successive military regimes of General Zia and General H M Ershad since August 1975 to December 1990.

Bangladesh's history and ethos earned through war of liberation being distorted by those who had taken control of it in the past three decades with a view to control the future of Bangladesh with a tutored model as design by their mentors. The election 2008 has reposed with a big responsibility with such big majority; Sheikh Hasina carried an enormous responsibility to address those issues.

A UN-funded digital electoral roll, which eliminated 12.7 million fake names, appeared to have put a lid on the widespread vote rigging seen in previous polls, observers said. Manzoor Hasan, director of BRAC University's Institute of Governance Studies in Dhaka, said the next 48 hours were crucial in deciding whether the BNP accepted the result. He also warned that with such a big majority, Sheikh Hasina carried an enormous responsibility reports AFP."This is the danger of an absolute majority with any government. The possibility that it will steamroll the opposition and do whatever the government wants to do," he said.

The election attracted a record voter turnout of 85 percent, with the figure reaching 90 percent in rural areas, the Election Commission said. An EU monitoring team said its early reports indicated that voting was largely peaceful, turnout high and procedures followed "adequately." "All Bangladeshis can take great pride in the success of these elections," the US State Department said in a statement on its website.

"The high voter turnout underscores the people's desire to see democracy restored as well to have a voice in their future," the statement said.

- Asian Tribune -

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