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Challenges Before Awami League

February 18, 2014

After the January 5 election when the dust has finally settled, it gradually becomes apparent that Awami League (AL) is going to stay in power for a long time

There is no formidable opposition before it in the coming months. However, BNP-led parties could stir up trouble in the month of June. By June 2014, it is expected that the maritime dispute between India and Bangladesh will be over. If the verdict goes in favor of India, BNP-led parties will play the card ‘Desh-bikri’(selling the country) to stoke the fire of anti-AL zeal, which will lead to widespread political and communal violence spearheaded by Jamaat-shibir-hefajet.

The combine effects of mal-governance and anti-AL campaign could make a boiling situation. There could be many attempts to bring the present regime down. If AL manages to get rid of those attempts, then it will have a less turbulent time ahead of it for the next one year.

But a full-five-year tenure will not be good for AL, nor will it be good for Bangladeshi democracy. Why? I have already explained earlier in one of my previous posts: if Awami League wins the next election, then the possibility is higher that a large section of AL activists might misinterpret the result; they might again indulge in corruption and in activities similar to freebooting. This, in turn, will hurt AL’s popularity and Islamist parties dominated opposition may emerge as a major political force, increasing their chance of taking the charge of the country by 2021.

For the moment, recent jawahiri tape has subdued the Islamists.So far, we have not yet seen any freebooting activities from AL stalwarts. But as time will go on, AL will start to lose its grip on the lower ends of its monolithic structure, and that’s when things start to go bad. Moreover, AL is equally guilty of the charges (i.e. corruption, nepotism, extra-judicial killing etc.) that it once used to lodge against the then ruling BNP led alliance. Continuation of present tenure without a participatory mid-term election will make people despise AL’s deeds and symbols.

If AL performs poorly as a ruling party, then BNP is a worst performer as a major opposition force. Its alliance with Islamists and subversive activities make it less popular among the people. Its political activities can only be found in few centers:  Naya Paltan party office, Gulshan party office and the conference rooms of luxury hotels.

In this genuine opposition-less politics, people are eagerly looking for parties that will speak up on their behalf. In the absence of formidable formal parties, there will be recurrence of incidents like Kansat. Local heroes with inclination towards left politics will come forward as major opposition voices across Bangladesh and across different sectors, raising their voices for people’s problem. But their appeal will only be confined to local level or to the sectors where the concerned problems actually originated. At grass-root or at local level, they can significantly alter the power politics. Individually, they will not change the course of national politics, but together, under the umbrella of an alliance with other progressive parties, which is highly unlikely, they will become a formidable opponent of Awami League. In fact, they will be the center of gravity of center-left politics, turning AL into the torch-bearer of center-right politics!

Pressure from civil society, partner countries, local heroes, some politicians of AL and, to some extent, Islamist-less BNP will force AL to go for an early election. But when it will happen depends largely on the bargaining power of this collective force. For the next seven to eight months, I do not see any genuine prospect of any mid-term election.  Because our new local heroes are yet to be borne, some sections of AL do not see enough reasons to speak up for an early poll, partner countries and civil societies are still assessing the situation. Moreover, an effete BNP has not regained its lost confidence, let alone create pressure on AL for a mid-term election.

Nevertheless, road ahead of AL is strewn with challenges. The immediate challenge is the turbulence of June if the verdict goes in favor of India. And the distant challenge is a trade-off between a full-five-year tenure and the degeneration of secular AL.

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From → Analysis

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