Vol. 5 Num 921 Fri. December 29, 2006  

Free and fair election possible, but not the results

When we all talk about "free and fair election" we assume that the result of such an election will also be fair, truly reflecting the wishes of the voters. It seems that there is a sense of complacency in the public mind. Maybe we have developed "movement fatigue."

History teaches us that nobody learns any lesson from history. There are umpteen numbers of cases proving this historical lesson. But what about current happenings? Can't any lesson be taken from what is happening now?

Truly speaking, as a law-abiding citizen of Bangladesh, since the dissolution of 8th Parliament, I am still waiting for a caretaker government headed by a non-partisan chief adviser who is below the age of 72.

So long as I don't have one, I feel sorry to be living in my own country in a constitutional vacuum. An honorable bench of the High Court was about to issue a rule mitigating my frustration as a citizen, but they were stopped by an "order."

Whether it was a "judicial," or an "administrative," order is not yet known. It couldn't have been judicial because such a premise was absent during delivery of the order i.e. Rule was not issued. It couldn't have been administrative because the High Court bench functions independently, and cannot be interfered by any authority whatsoever.

May be a full bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court will deliberate and decide the matter some time in the future. Hence, my sense of living in an unconstitutional morass persists.

The purpose of an elaborate introduction to my article on election results is only to awaken the citizenry to the situation of "Law and Order" at the summit level of the state functionary.

So, even if the elections are conducted fairly, meaning with long queues of men and women casting votes peacefully in all the polling centers, with local and foreign observers watching in broad daylight, and which is also being shown live by TV channels; what happens after the polling is over? Who will be there when the results are compiled and tabulated?

I'm sure no observer will be allowed, and the security cordon will keep participants and their agents/supporters away.

The result that the returning officer sends by fax to the EC will be in line with the wishes of the same people whose wish prompted the order, staying issuance of Rule (not waiting to stay the Rule itself, which would be absolutely lawful). And whose wishes prevented the honorable president from appointing the chief adviser as per the provision of the constitution.

The small-time petty officials of district administrations and the election officials who will function as presiding/returning officers cannot be expected to go against the same "wishes" where the summit level of the state has succumbed.

Hence the "blessed" result, as per the wishes of the unseen authority, will be promptly and enthusiastically announced as the final result by the EC, and will go unchallenged. By the time a credible complaint can be prepared and submitted, it will be too late. An "elected government" would have been sworn in well before that.

Is there any game plan to prevent this scenario by any quarter of the participating political parties, especially by the "Grand Alliance?" I haven't heard of any. It seems that Professor Yunus has one, and that is an all-party election monitoring committee.

The arrangement doesn't help the four-party alliance, so instead of themselves denouncing the Yunus proposal (maybe they didn't want to look like spoil-sports), they deputed "their" CTG do it for them, and it has been readily complied with. One honourable adviser has already rejected the Yunus idea in a press conference, within hours of Professor Yunus floating it.

Shouldn't the 18 party "Grand Alliance" pick-up on this and try to prevent tampering of the election results? One cannot afford to take a chance on the results of an election which is too important, and where too much is at stake. This election will be a referendum on black money backed by a shadowy force, which will not accept a fair defeat honorably. The whole nation must stand in vigil, and not let its guard down.

Waliul Haque is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star.