Can our leadership overcome the crisis of confidence?
 Tariq M Mazumdar

People want peace and prosperity, not agitation and instability. Only our party leadership can provide such a climate and their sacrifice will be the real contribution towards achieving democracy.

SELDOM in the history of our nation has any party conceded defeat gracefully. So how could it be any different this time? Five years ago, Khaleda Zia complained bitterly about unfair elections and this time Sheikh Hasina is doing it. What is our problem and why this attitude? Actually, the clash is between personalities more than issues; hence, arrogance overtakes rationality. Politicians tend to forget that election is a national event and people's interest comes before that of party or any individual.

It is the sovereign duty of our leaders to accept people's verdict gracefully. Election is conducted through a competent authority under a legitimate government and there is no room for defiance. It is possible that election results do not meet expectations of a party or an individual, which could well be the consequence of lack of public support, misjudgment, wrong strategy or simply bad luck. Our response should be guided by courage and conviction, not by shame or rage.

Controversy is universal; World Cups are won and lost amid vivid controversies. The world becomes silent witness simply to uphold integrity of the referee. Imagine the anarchy, if we defy verdicts of the court or if students reject exam results. How can there be a solution by demanding re-election when the loser is sure to restate demand for reelection? Where does it end and where do we draw the line between accepting and rejecting defeat?

Some irregularities may have occurred during the election, even the US elections were not perfect, for that matter. This election was definitely a strategic victory for the alliance otherwise there would be close contest between Awami League (AL) and BNP. It is evident that Jamaat contributed heavily in favour of the Alliance. Considerably more votes were cast and each of the candidates, including those of AL received more votes than last time. This fact in itself contradicts any claim of foul-play. Fact is, no one predicted the outcome and even the winners were pleasantly surprised. Accretion of Jamaat votes, in otherwise closely contested seats between the two major parties AL and BNP was the decisive factor. Perhaps if AL had formed similar alliance with Jatiya Party, the outcome would be yet different. The election was apparently free and fair. Having said so, it is equally important not to disregard or deprive any candidate of the constitutional right to lodge complaint and be heard. The caretaker government should immediately initiate an independent inquiry and declare the findings. Let justice prevail and the rule of law, be established.

Our leadership is most vulnerable now. Motivated advice will be plentiful. This is the time when patience and perseverance will determine the true winner. Jubilation or frustration is natural but the leaders must remain calm and act maturely. Confrontation will only bring chaos and lead to degeneration. It is possible that people gave an unpalatable verdict but politicians must reserve any judgement, for it is the people who are actual players in this event and not the politicians. Any attempt to defeat the mandate will frustrate the public who otherwise are inspired by democracy. Peoples' confidence in our electoral process must be renewed and politicians' credibility established.

Our leaders must now rise above all controversies and forgo personal differences. People want peace and there has been no serious cause for disruption. Agitation will certainly backfire. Over 55 million people cast their votes in the election of which no fewer than 22.3 million have expressed solidarity with the Awami League and 26.0 million with the BNP-led alliance. However, politicians simply do not have the mandate, implied or otherwise, to act irrationally and outside the parliament. Both parties are obligated to comply and live up to people's expectations. This can only be achieved by participation, not isolation. Any confrontation should be inside the parliament, not in the streets. It is not significant how many electoral seats were won and which party forms the government. What is important is that peoples' interests are safeguarded and aspirations fulfilled. Fight corruption and participate in building a strong nation. Defend the constitution and expose any conspiracy. People are smart and will definitely remember.

People want peace and prosperity, not agitation and instability. Only our party leadership can provide such a climate and their sacrifice will be the real contribution towards achieving democracy. Political parties must start the tradition and establish faith in our electoral process. Improvement should be made and any mistakes corrected in the system through participation. Defiance will only bring shame to our nation and frustration to the citizens. I am confident that our leaders will overcome any crisis, lest they make yet another blunder of underestimating the origin of power.

Mazumdar is a free-lance writer


Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, February 13, 2002


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