Who can ensure a free, fair poll?


Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :

Parliamentary election is knocking at the door.

The nation had bad experiences almost all over the previous elections.

The way polls conducted are maligned and influenced.

There we see manipulation, corruption, pressure, chaos and conflict among different groups and section of people.

Smooth environment is absent.

By this, our Election Commission, law enforcing agencies either become a party to malpractice and maladministration or victim of political pressure group or influenced by ruling party or others.

For this reason, democracy has become a matter of concern to the nation. No one can trust us.

Democracy and development are not a laughing matter that our politicians try to exhibit or exercise.

Politicians try to use people and make them fool by false commitment.

They bring them to streets in the name of peace, protest, demonstrations.

This might be a political and counter political program for our politicians.

What is the scenario we can observe there? We see that roads are blocked.

Normal life is being disrupted. Students, workers and patients suffer too much. Again the low income earners and the daily laborers suffer a lot.

During political demonstration bad incident like vandalism occurs, situation turns to grievous and goes beyond control of order and norms.

It is assumed that, this is the problem of leadership. When there is any allegation of any sectoral performances, we don’t see that proper investigation or inquiry. It is being ignored.

For any works of any ministry or department, did we ever find anybody answerable? Did any minister resign or was anyone made OSD? Whenever we hear political pressure by political activist for calming illegal money from market association, company, office, business centers- never we heard any remedial or punitive news.

Why do we hear bad news on our bank activities? Who are responsible for it at the anomalies points and finally why do they dare to make financial institutions bankrupt? Who are behind them.

All these arise to our people’s mind. Naturally people want to know the dismal picture.

Again people want a democratic atmosphere through a free and fair election. People want a peace and humanitarian Bangladesh. This is the only demand from their side.

There is a political stalemate over Bangladesh’s election administration.

The AL asserts that elections can be free and fair under the oversight of the Bangladesh Election Commission, which the opposition argues is partisan.

Consequently, the BNP says it will boycott all elections until the government reinstates caretaker government (CTG) system, scrapped by the AL in 2011.

Under the CTG system, a nonpartisan interim government takes over election administration and other governmental functions within 90 days of Election Day to ensure a level playing field.

A CTG successfully oversaw three elections in Bangladesh – 1991, 1996 and 2001 – but became increasingly controversial over time.


However, as Bangladesh waits to vote, repressive measures including widespread surveillance and a crackdown on speech have contributed to a widely described climate of fear, extending from prominent people to ordinary citizens.

This and other actions by the ruling Awami League government have created conditions that will undermine the credibility of the elections.

The United States has centered democracy promotion in its Bangladesh policy.

In December 2021, Washington sanctioned Bangladesh’s elite security force the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) over alleged extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations.

The Biden administration denied Bangladesh an invitation to its 2021 and 2023 global democracy summits.

And in May 2023, the United States announced it would refuse visas to any Bangladeshi implicated in “undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.”

Over the past year, several senior U.S. government officials – including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Hass and State Department Councilor Derek Chollet – have publicly called for free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

Other governments have followed the United States’ lead.

These actions and statements have gotten significant attention in Bangladesh.

The political opposition and rights groups have cheered the United States and others, while the AL has ping-ponged between openness, dismissal and hostility.

Some Bangladesh government officials have acknowledged abuses of the country’s controversial Digital Security Act and limited RAB excesses, and pledged to improve Bangladesh’s still relatively nascent democratic institutions.

At the same time, others in the AL, including the prime minister herself, have flatly denied any human rights abuses, called the United States hypocritical, and accused the Biden administration of plotting to overthrow Bangladesh’s government.

Our past experiences are bad, although there are some good instances to some extent.

Our politicians fail to settle any crisis through discussion and dialogue.

They do not have their self-confidence and rely on others.

Again there is a question of mistrust and disunity among themselves. They always play their blame game.

That is, no one is above ill doings and guilty mind. Every time they try to remain and behave as an authoritarian, dictatorial and opportunist.

The politicians with that sort of attitudes are not true to their words towards the people.

They remain busy cheating people. Actually they are not peoples friend, they only use people for demonstration, protest.

It is not meant for development sake, whatever they do. To them development is only eye wash. Politicians are self-centered.

They cannot go beyond selfish ideology for which nation cannot proceed or flourish. Many of our politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt and misleading.

So in this situation, free and fair election cannot be ascertained. All political parties must be cordial and they should join the election.

If government is cordial and want a free fair election, they might form different supervisory and monitoring bodies taking people from civil society, press and media, employing observers from home and abroad for all the polling centers.

(The writer is former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh
Ansar & VDP).