Some questions after Chittagong election

Today, foreign minister Dipu Moni said “Fair polls are possible under this election commission if we can guarantee a true democracy. Chittagong City Corporation election is a glaring example”. BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury also seems to be in agreement as he said “a fair election is possible during the term of any political government if it has good intention”. It’s been a while since we last saw the incumbent and the opposition coming to an agreement after an election. Nothing is sweeter, when democracy works.

There are few pockets of twists and disappointments– the loosing candidate avoiding accepting the result (fear of appearing looser?); few supporters of the winning candidate avoiding directly accepting the election as free and fair (fear of appreciating AL?); and some taking it to new levels with very expensive bets. Other than these, everyone else on both sides seems to be happy.

Now that the election–which also saw a trial run of digital-election–ends, this post raises some awkward questions to think about–

1. Election under incumbent?

AL is taking the opportunity to argue that fair polls possible under AL. But, we have seen enough parliamentary, Yes-No, or Presidential elections over the last four decades to learn that, if an incumbent really wants to rig an election, it can do it no matter what. Not to forget, AL also won two City Corporation elections under BNP regime which gave BNP the opportunity to claim similar credit. But that only lasted for few months and country witnessed the infamous Magura election. So my first question is– can AL be any different?

2. Pro-CTG, pro-reform Nominations?

When Khaleda Zia nominated Manjur, some critics argued why she had to nominate someone who actively supported the post-1/11 reform. The nomination of Hafiz—another pro-CTG reformist—in Bhola was unavoidable for his personal popularity in that constituency. But this was not the same for Manjur and two subsequent pro-CTG and pro-reform candidates from BNP in two elections. Can this be any indication that BNP is finally/slowly moving towards leadership reform?

3. AL-BNP’s internal rifts?

Some AL leaders have blamed internal conflict in Chittagong Awami League for Mohiuddin Chowdhury’s defeat. Without undermining Mohiuddin’s role in Chittagong during the past 17 years, it can be safely assumed that when a person holds power for too long–even through democratic means–he creates sufficient disgruntled sections within the party. Will his loss help reduce Chittagong AL’s internal conflict?

BNP was suffering from a chronic internal-rift in Chittagong for a long time. When nominating a BNP candidate appeared almost impossible, KZ very interestingly offered support to–Mohiuddin’s long-time ally and deputy–Manjur. Nice way to avoid BNP’s conflict by addressing AL’s conflict. If outcome justifies the process, then this was surely a very good move for BNP. Question is, will another player help reduce Chittagong BNP’s internal conflict?

4. Deep-sea Port?

For long, Mohiuddin maintained strong protest against a deep-sea port in Chittagong which remained a problem for AL’s central command that were trying to implement the project. Question is, will this help AL? Will BNP (that has been maintaining a good relation with China since Ziaur Rahman took over the power) oppose the scheme if China builds/uses the port?

Last Update:

It seems Mohiuddin has finally given up within week and promised to offer “his assistance in any sort of development work for the benefit of the citizens of Chittagong”.

Not sure if it fulfills the criteria of a “different election”. Is this politics? Yes. Good thing? Probably.

[cross-posted at Unheard Voice]

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