Featured image:

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia proposed electoral reforms at a press conference in Dhaka

© bdnews24.com/md asaduzzaman pramanik

An apology for Khaleda Zia-proposed plans

Against the backdrop of the extant political stalemate, which unfortunately is characterised mainly by a relentless hounding of the administration’s political opponents, it is all too evidently imperative that a beginning be initiated for discussions. Obviously, without talks leading to a resolution of this impasse, the existing uncertainties in the socio-political sphere as well as in investments are not going to disappear.

Acknowledging this reality, the recent proposal for an effective and acceptable Election Commission by Begum Khaleda Zia offers an honest and honourable aperture for exchanges of opinion between the ruling alliance and its political adversaries.

In politics, as in war, ultimately there always are and always will be ways of finding a respectable middle path so that the nation may benefit from the democratic dispensation that the people’s leaders may construct with the imprimatur of the electorate. In Bangladesh, particularly since the one-sided and controversial election of January 2014, the nation, socio-politically, has essentially been in a state of drift.

From the perspective of the Constitution of Bangladesh, in spite of numerous alterations in the last few years, the present circumstances in actuality agitate against the very spirit of democracy. Hence, in such a time, the revelation of the proposal drafted by the BNP to empower the Election Commission and the subsequent meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is like a breath of fresh air. The BNP’s approach in this particular instance is that of pragmatism and somewhat blind faith.

Questions may be raised regarding the coexistence of such opposing notions, but a closer look will reveal more. There is no debate in the public discourse regarding the need for an independent and competent Election Commission. The mere fact that the BNP perceived this issue to be of utmost importance and furthermore an avenue to start a substantial dialogue deserves appreciation. Additionally, it also displays that the party’s think tank have remained realistic in their expectations and floated a genuine proposal to see a perceptible revamping of the Commission, which will put an end to the election related woes that plague us.

The central theme of the proposal is characterised by ‘consensus’ of all parties and in turn opens a forum to include all stakeholders. It consistently harps on the notion of integrity and provides specific guidelines in terms of the qualifications and the process of selecting the Chief Election Commissioner and the other Commissioners. It also provides certain parameters that can be used by the President of the Republic to select the Search Committee members who in turn will be entrusted with the onerous responsibility of choosing the Election Commissioners. However, throughout the 13-point proposal, the stress on the need for involving other parties in the process is palpable.

It is interesting to note that the BNP, amidst a number of procedural and conceptual suggestions in this proposal, does not talk about constitutional amendments. This is where blind faith somewhat comes in. The BNP believes that if a consensus can be reached by taking the aid of the Constitutional Head of State, the implementation aspect of the whole process can be done without resorting to any constitutional amendment and in good faith. Here, the BNP, apart from cooperating with the president, is evidently willing to work with the establishment to break the political impasse and emerge free of unbridled hubris.

By means of this proposal the BNP has already taken the first step towards dialogue and reconciliation. The ball now lies in the court of the ruling alliance to break the ice for greater dispensation of democracy. It must be noted that this proposal is by no means static and is open to discussion. It is a golden opportunity to expand political space and break out of destructive political rhetoric.  Let us only hope that good sense will prevail.

Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury
is a member of the Standing Committee of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and a former Commerce Minister of Bangladesh