Friday, December 21, 2018

Election 2018: Why government is fixing the election

Police rush Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters at a protest
on February 9, 2018, Dhaka, Bangladesh
At first glance, this is probably the most mystifying question of the current election campaign in Bangladesh.

Whilst independent international opinion polls since May suggest that the Awami League is significantly more popular than the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the Awami League government is acting as though the only way it can win the election is to repress the opposition and steal the election?

In recent weeks, government activists have violently attacked opposition activists throughout the country; the police have arbitrarily arrested dozens of opposition activists in many districts under nebulous, vague and false cases; law enforcement officers have picked up and secretly detained opposition political activists; and the Election Commission and High Court has acted as though they are agents of the Awami League government, preventing opposition candidates from standing. As Human Rights Watch states:

Human Rights Watch research from October to early December found repeated instances of arbitrary security force arrest and detention of protesters and political opposition figures, and acts of violence and intimidation by members of the ruling party’s student and youth wings. The crackdown, and the broad and vaguely worded laws that facilitate it, are contributing to an environment of fear. Institutions including the judiciary and the national election commission do not appear to be fully prepared to independently and fairly resolve disputes around campaigns and elections, such as on registration, candidacies, and results. 
“The Awami League government has been systematically cracking down on independent and opposition voices to ensure that the ruling party faces no obstacles to total political control,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Members and supporters of the main opposition parties have been arrested, killed, even disappeared, creating an atmosphere of fear and repression that is not consistent with credible elections.”
It is worth while reading this in full. This of course is just what has happened in recent weeks. It follows on from months, indeed years of disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extra-judicial killings and prohibition on opposition parties from organising. All mostly done in to weaken the opposition to help ensure that Awami League the elections that are now to take place in nine days time.

If there is a government strategy it seems to be this
- Stop opposition candidates from getting nominations - through action of election commission and High court;
- Stop the opposition activists from campaigning and organising - through arrests, disappearances, violence and intimidation etc;
- Stop opposition voters from turning up at the vote - through the above activities, and more on election day;
- Changing the vote - through stuffing of ballot papers on the day;

So why has the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina gone to such lengths to stop the opposition from getting its vote out and fixing, the election if the polls give the Awami League such a lead?

I am told that this is because the Prime Minister is being advised that whatever the polls might say, the BNP would win the election if there was a free and fair poll. 

She has three main sources of information - the police, the DGFI and the Awami League leaders.

The police are telling the prime minister that their information is that the BNP would win an election. Whether they believe this or not, it is in the interest of senior police officers to give her this information so that the Prime Minister thinks the police are essential for an Awami League victory. 

And Awami League leaders are giving her this information about a BNP victory as they are extremely risk adverse. They don't want any risk that they will lose - and so they need the government to put the finger strongly on the scales so that the opposition has no chance of winning. As a result they tell the prime minister that the governing party may well lose.

Of course, there are many who believe that the polls are just wholly wrong - and the government knows it.

We will now never know - since the election will be so manipulated by government actions before, during and after the vote that the true support for the parties will never be known.


Other 2018 Elections posts

- Dec 7:   Forced out, but service resumes
- Dec 7:   Disappearances before 2014 election
- Dec 9:   Exclusive: Results of Confidential Poll revealed
- Dec 11: Bangladesh's "Closing Democratic Space"

- Dec 13: Fear and Awami League leaders
- Dec 13: Challenging the Orthodox View
- Dec 15: Full Pre-election polls for download
- Dec 21: Why the Government is fixing the election
- Dec 22: Sajeeb Joy's poll half-truths
- Dec 22: Facebook exposes government's fake news
- Dec 23: A disgrace of a website

- Dec 25: Awami League's new crisis of legitimacy

No comments:

Post a Comment