Thursday, August 7, 2008

Editorial on Local Election Result in Bangladesh

Polls result should not interfere with graft probe, trial
Source: New Age Editorial
August 7, 2008

Elections to four city corporations and nine municipalities are over. The results have been published. In all 1,600 candidates contested. Of them 992 for the city corporations including 46 for mayoral posts, 752 for the posts of councillor and 194 women candidates for the posts councillor in the reserved seats. This is an election which both the Awami League and the BNP had rejected earlier but later secured the engagement of the former after a climb-down in its stated position. At any rate, whether officially or unofficially, the elections were fought politically, enabled by a High Court order issued at the eleventh hour. What is particularly significant is that winners to all the mayoral posts and most posts of councillor are leaders and activists of political parties, and the same is true, in most cases, of the other credible contenders. Non-partisan election has been proved a chimera. People only recognise and follow the political parties, warts and all; the relationship is organic, built over the years.

Another significant aspect of this election is that many of the winners and contenders of this election have corruption charges lying against them and some are in jail waiting to be tried. The chief election commissioner urged voters to vote for ‘honest’ candidates. Wish the world were as it should be and not as it is! The people have voted for candidates who were always close to them, in varying degrees though, in their weal and woe. For the people traditional politics and election are almost synonymous. This does not mean that voters have ignored or condoned corruption. It only means they had no better alternative, proving thereby that, to them, political forces are no substitute for the political class.

Here is a lesson for the military-controlled interim government. Political engineering does not withstand the test of election. If the country’s political culture has to change, it must change from within, over time. No result should be expected overnight. After holding the local government elections in the face of opposition from political parties the incumbents should be able to read the lessons derived. The only viable course for them is to lift the emergency and open up the political process so that the country can get back on the right and legitimate track, and fight for a positive political alternative.

However, while congratulating the winners we would also call upon them to draw their own lessons from the election. As political leaders they have fallen on evil days but the people did not let them down. Neither should the leaders let the people down in future. The leaders’ bad time is transitory; the people’s sufferings are perpetual, at least in this country. As stated above, electoral support is not an endorsement of corruption. As far as crime and corruption are concerned, many of these leaders have a smeared dossier. They have much to live down and under a compelling moral obligation to repay their debt to the local people. Finally, in the case of winners charged with corruption, their victory should not interfere with the investigation and trial and the law must take its own course.

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