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Monday, July 7, 2008

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The interest of the people at the grassroots in the forthcoming local government polls is clearly discernible. What is very heartening in this dynamics is the predominant voice of the people at the local level that seems to have prevailed over that of the central leadership in so far as participation in the election is concerned. Their enthusiasm and interest, so manifest in the submission of nomination papers for the four city corporations and nine municipalities, is very encouraging indeed.

Admittedly, the local government polls are supposed to be non-partisan - yet those who participate mostly belong to one political party or the other. Therefore, in the current political ambience the influence of the local leaders and workers over their party bosses in the capital ushers in something very constructive for politics in Bangladesh. One would like to see this trend - of asserting the voice of the people, directly and through the local leaders- continue and be a determining factor in the politics of the country in the future as well. Only when the voice of the local leaders and the grassroots workers determines the course of party politics will we see democracy in Bangladesh achieve the maturity that will reshape the tenor of politics.

It is encouraging to see that everyone is caught up by the election fervour - and of course the pull factor - election in Bangladesh has to do as much with politics as with the fact that it is an occasion for festivity for our people- plays its own part.

But there is an apparent dichotomy in the whole exercise. Traditionally, local government elections in Bangladesh have been non-partisan; neither could a candidate represent a political party nor could one use party symbol to project one's case to the voters. This must remain so - and we welcome the warning of the EC that any candidate that flaunts his or her political identity would lose his or her candidature. Yet it cannot be denied that no candidate can be apolitical and indeed the political face of the candidates is very obvious.

For the political parties it would be well if they realised the unique nature of the local government polls and did not push down the electorate's throat 'their candidates' although we feel strongly that they can play a significant role in encouraging honest and good people offering themselves as candidates. That would also encourage across the board democratic participation in the forthcoming local government election.

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