How Bangladesh can avert the potential crisis centering the election?


In a recent op-ed published on 28 November 2023 by Protham Alo English, Dr. Mainul Islam, an esteemed economist and former professor of economics at Chittagong University, expressed concerns about the upcoming election in Bangladesh. The article, titled “Crisis Will Intensify if Election is Not Credible”, highlights the potential repercussions of a one-sided or gerrymandered election and the impact it might have on the country’s relationships, both domestically and internationally.

Dr. Islam points out that the Election Commission (EC) announced the election schedule for January 7, 2024, with various political parties, including Jatiya Party and fringe groups, confirming their participation. However, the article raises doubts about the legitimacy of the election, especially considering past allegations of ballot rigging by the ruling Awami League in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

One of the key concerns expressed by Dr. Islam is the potential fallout with the United States. He mentions that the US has previously voiced its disapproval of the Awami League government’s conduct, accusing it of derailing the electoral system through ballot rigging. The article highlights the strained relationship between Bangladesh and the US, referencing the rejection of a dialogue request from Donald Lu and the imposition of visa restrictions on those hindering the election process.

Dr. Islam delves into the historical context of US-Bangladesh relations, mentioning the tensions during the Obama administration regarding the treatment of Professor Yunus. He suggests that President Joe Biden’s focus on democracy globally might further strain ties with the current government in Bangladesh. The exclusion of Bangladesh from two consecutive democracy conferences hosted by President Biden and the travel ban imposed on top officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in December 2021 are cited as indicators of US discontent.

The article also addresses internal issues, specifically the concern over extrajudicial killings and the need for the Awami League to fulfill its promise to stop such practices. Dr. Islam contends that US sanctions on RAB may serve as a catalyst for curbing extrajudicial killings and improving the country’s human rights image.

As the political landscape in Bangladesh intensifies in the lead-up to the 2024 elections, Dr. Islam urges the Awami League to consider the potential consequences of a flawed electoral process. He emphasizes the importance of a free, fair, and credible election to prevent a deepening crisis in the country.

In response to Dr. Islam’s concerns, it is crucial to recognize the complex challenges faced by Bangladesh in balancing its domestic political landscape with international expectations. While highlighting the potential pitfalls, it is essential to explore constructive paths forward to ensure a credible and inclusive electoral process.

Firstly, addressing allegations of past electoral misconduct is paramount. The Awami League should consider establishing an independent commission to investigate previous claims of ballot rigging and take corrective measures to rebuild public trust in the electoral system.

Secondly, fostering open dialogue with international partners, particularly the United States, is crucial. Diplomatic engagement can help bridge gaps in understanding and mitigate potential sanctions. The government should be proactive in addressing concerns raised by the international community and demonstrate a commitment to democratic principles.

Thirdly, internal reforms are imperative to address issues like extrajudicial killings. The Awami League should prioritize upholding the rule of law, ensuring a fair and transparent judicial process for individuals accused of crimes, including suspected militants. This approach can help improve Bangladesh’s human rights record and alleviate international concerns.

Navigating the complexities of Bangladesh’s electoral landscape requires a multifaceted approach. The government must prioritize electoral integrity, engage in diplomatic dialogue, and address internal issues to foster a conducive environment for credible elections. Only through such efforts can Bangladesh avert the potential crisis outlined by Dr. Mainul Islam and secure a path towards political stability and international cooperation.


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