Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Clear mandate for secular, egalitarian values, democratic governance in Bangladesh

Read New Age's editorial published today.

Clear mandate for secular, egalitarian values, democratic governance

While the results are yet to be officially declared at the time this editorial goes to print, the trends clearly indicate a massive landslide victory for the Awami League-led alliance in the elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad. Despite allegations by the BNP of irregularities in some constituencies — which should be investigated by the Election Commission — Monday’s voting appears to have been largely peaceful and generally free.

   The huge voter turnout in these elections has been a manifestation of the people’s rejection of authoritarian rule and aspiration for rule of law, in the first place. The manner in which people came out in droves on Monday, rejoicing in their constitutional right to elect their own representatives is also indicative of a resounding verdict in favour of democratic governance.

   Through this landslide verdict in favour of the Awami League and its allies, the people have delivered a clear mandate not only for the Awami League-led alliance, but more specifically for the slogans that Awami League has chanted for years. Thus, a majority of the voters have resoundingly spoken in favour of the spirit of the war of national independence: the quest for an egalitarian society built on the principles of secular democracy.

   In the specific context of the Awami League’s election promises, the people have sought respite from the high prices of essentials, have placed their faith in the party’s promise to expand agricultural subsidies and support, ensure equitable economic growth, and realise their much vaunted demand for the trial of war criminals of 1971.

   After 1973, this is the first time that the Awami League is set to come to power with a two-thirds majority, bestowing on them the mandate and the legal means of constitutionalising the politics they have professed to espouse in the intervening period.

   However, the biggest challenge that Awami League has been exposed to is properly handling the huge parliamentary strength, particularly given the fact that two-thirds majorities in Bangladesh, and other South Asian states, have often failed to behave democratically, particularly in terms of accommodating dissenting views of the opposition parties on the one hand and the critical media on the other. We only hope that the Awami League will take lessons from history and contribute to the institulisation of a sound parliamentary system of governance in the country.

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