Election day post
I will be participating in the liveblogging over at Unheard Voice. This quick post is just for the record.
I don’t actually have much election memories in Bangladesh. I remember the presidential election of 1981 — TV was on during the day, a rarity in those days of single, mostly black and white, TV channel. In 1986 I remember my family members being extremely agitated — like most urban middle class families, mine was split in the middle about that election. In 1991, chicken pox meant I was behind a mosquito net when most my friends were out in the street canvassing (overwhelmingly for dhaner sheesh). I was overseas in 1996, and didn’t care much for Bangladeshi politics. In 2001, I did care about politics. I thought that election was a milestone in our politics. One side finished its five year term without a political crisis, the other side was the first one to use modern campaign tactics like voter arithmetic instead of traditional ones like andolon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Dhaka during the election week.
This blog came about at a time when our democracy looked to be under a long term suspension. With this election, regardless of the result, the immediate threat to our democracy will have passed. However, the fight for liberty — mukti — will continue after the election. Meanwhile, I will never forget the festive atmosphere I saw today. Regardless of the results, tomorrow will be a better day.
I wish AL gets a comfortable, but not overwhelming, majority so that it doesn’t have to depend on JP to form the government. About 160 seats should suffice. This would mean AL could withstand any calls for an NSC or other such arrangements. It will also have enough strength to push through a progressive agenda (and if it doesn’t do so, progressives should call them for it).
I also wish BNP gets a sizeable number of seats — at least 110 — so that Mrs Zia has a platform to rebuild the centre-right politics from. I have been very disappointed with most of BNP campaign, which has been, until very end, full of demgoguery and 60 year old identity politics. However, Mrs Zia’s Paltan speech was both a political masterstroke, and a reason to be hopeful about BNP’s future.
If these numbers come through, then there will be only 20-25 seats for JP and JI. It would be great for these parasitic parties to wither away.
I fear BNP’s negative campaign and Mrs Zia’s speech, coupled with AL complacency and infighting, will result in a hung parliament, or possibly a BNP-JI victory. A hung parliament means more army/foreign meddling — regular readers would know my views on that. Regular readers wouldn’t necessarily know that I used to argue that the 2001 election result was a good outcome for the country. I don’t argue that any more. I was wrong — BNP-JI rule speaks for itself. If they are re-elected without any evidence of improvement, I think it will lead to an even worse government than the last one. And if AL loses, I fear they will return to the politics of confrontation.
In our first past the post system, a 5% margin in terms of votes can lead to a lopsided parliament. It is quite possible that AL-JP will get 45-50% of votes against BNP-JI’s 40-45%, and this could well result in an AL-JP 2/3rds majority. If that happens, past records don’t augur well for an AL brute majority.