by Zahedul Amin
As the country gets increasingly mired in political crisis resulting in arson, destruction and death to innocent civilians, the general people seem to be running out of patience. Both PM and opposition leader have been claiming to represent the general mass, while at the same time, conveniently ignoring their views. As made amply clear in recent opinion polls, a vast majority of people support a poll time caretaker government over a more partisan one. While people squarely reject hartals and it’s crippling impact on the economy. Responsibility for civilian deaths during recent strikes falls squarely on the opposition and their failure to apologize will prove costly in coming poll.
The current crisis emanated from the Supreme Court verdict which declared the caretaker government system as unconstitutional, allowing the government to amend constitution. Despite leeway in terms of undertaking two more polls under caretaker government, and initial opposition from senior leaders of the ruling party, the government went ahead with the amendment. The biggest irony is that AL, while in opposition in mid 90s had to force the BNP government to enact the caretaker government bill enforcing 183 days hartal.
Although almost all polls under the current AL government have been deemed fair, the upcoming national election has greater weight with far reaching ramifications inducing the AL government to possibly rig it. The crux of the matter boils down to the lack of trust between the two major parties which is unlikely to alter overnight. The recent phone conversation between the PM and opposition leader is the case in point for the non-existence of a proper working relationship.
The situation is expected to escalate beyond control if the status quo remains. A poll without the main opposition is unlikely to be credible, both nationally and internationally, and may suffer the fate of the Feb 15, 1996 poll government. The opposition is also likely to continue agitation post Jan 5 poll which will further devastate the economy.
The opposition, on its part, should make utmost effort to accommodate a compromise for ensuring participation. Recent opinion polls have given them an edge in terms of electoral support which may translate into a big majority. So far, Opposition have clearly failed to pay its cards well and had to resort to arson instead of engaging the general people in the anti-government movement.
Government has a larger responsibility in the dialogue process and their highhanded behavior is totally uncalled for. Despite knowing about impending political turmoil from 2011 onwards, they haven’t taken any concrete steps to resolve the CTG issues keeping it for the last moment. The Bangladeshi constitution provides supreme authority to the PM subordinating the influence of other cabinet members. Hence the balance of power is unlikely to be evened out even if major opposition leaders were to accept crucial ministries in the ‘all-party’ government keeping PM at the helm.
The future dialogue (if any) will primarily hinge on the person heading the interim poll-time government. It will be naïve on the part of government to expect opposition to accept the AL chief as the head the interim government, while the opposition must not expect the government to go beyond the purview of the constitution.
Civil society leaders and constitution experts have suggested several solutions falling within the tenets of current constitution. Both parties have so far ignored these voices and are going ahead with their plans.
As the Game of Throne for the country’s Prime Minister-ship draws near, we find both leaders at loggerhead again. One is championing the constitution while the other wants the return of Caretaker/neutral government. Don’t be surprised if their roles change in five years time again claiming to represent peoples’ views.
Zahedul Amin is the director of Finance at LightCastle Partners, an emerging market specialized business planning and intelligence firm. (for details visit www.lightcastlebd.com)