Election


The last installment of this analysis tried to explain government’s suicidal fixation on undermining Professor Muhammad Yunus. One possible explanation, as alluded to in that piece- was precision pre-planning for a future where Muhammad Yunus could have been the only formidable stature standing while the whole opposition spectrum is decimated – jailed – removed.

Today lets discuss the prequel or to be frank – impossibility of this government planned prequel to the resistance scenario where the opposition gets decimated. It is clear the state is waiting for advances from the opposition – they want the opposition to start it first. They want opposition to call some hartal – annoy people – anger the chattering class belonging to the civil society – then come down hard on the opposition – the way the state came down hard and gagged the post Ilias ali abduction protests. If the top leadership goes behind the bar, Khaleda Zia remains virtually in house arrest incommunicado and the rest of mid level leadership remain on the run – the ground organization of BNP will come to a standstill — this is the assumption of the planners of Hasina war room. May be in the last moment – just after the election schedule is announced – to show some fake sincerity to hold an inclusive election – Khaleda Zia, along with some other senior leaders, will be released. But the mid-level organizers will be kept at a bay to ensure a BNP boycott of the election. Any possible hartal agitation movement will be dealt with harshest state repression. And once an election is somehow conducted with domesticated opposition and some fake break away BNP participating and  as soon as the 3rd Hasina Government  takes oath – full brunt of the state repression will be unleashed upon whatever is remaining of BNP. Khaleda Zia along with her top lieutenants will face harsh or long term sentences. Per PM Hasina’s game plan – vision 2021 will be halfway on its goal.

 

However the above mentioned scenario still remains within the confines of wishful thinking and planning. History tells us again and again – whatever precision planning one may do, whatever full proof the plans may be – eventually, surprise and unplanned factors dictate the flows, the turns and the curves of the history. Another factor that also cannot be ignored by any avid observer of history – is that whatever powerful one may be – without ground based following and a sizable portion of the population backing the regime – no one can stay afloat with absolute power too long. Nature – sometimes presenting as collective public opinion, sometimes presenting as suppressed public demands – finds its way to correct major anomalies against the nature- again an overwhelming public opinion.

 

The state, led by Hasina and her cronies e.g. political advisers, army, RAB and police chiefs, GOCs of strategic military divisions, DMP and other commissioners, bureaucrats – may design the perfect plan of a brutal bloody suppression of the opposition. They may find the confidence and comfort about their success in their successful dress rehearsals of suppressing the opposition movement after Ilias Ali abduction or Hezazate Islam sit in.

 

The problem is that what the planners of Mrs. Hasina fail to see is that the state power has a shelf life. It decays with time. The vigor this state had shown during Ilias Ali agitation or even during hefazate Islami sit in, is no longer there with the state machinery. In the elected autocratic democracies like Bangladesh – the state power and the opposition strength is mutually complimentary. The stronger the state is, the weaker is the opposition. The weaker the state gets – the more invigorated the opposition gets. Even if the high command orders a brutal crackdown of the opposition, it will be unlikely that all ground level enforcers of the state will comply to high command orders with full complicity. Every single police officer, every single district level administrator will think twice before executing any drastic suppression. Because like the rest of the nation they will also be skeptical about PM Hasina Government’s plans to hang on to a second term by force. They will be very careful in trying not alienating the future ruling party. The state may have foreseen and preempted this problem by heavily recruiting hardcore ruling party zealots from a certain part of the country- but these zealots will be too little too weak to negate the skepticism and inaction of self-serving skeptic members of the  administration.

At the same time the opposition force Hasina’s state machinery will face on the streets will be much stronger than before.  Possibility of an upcoming election will drive constituency based resistance to state suppression. Potential candidates of each constituency as well as their ward level followers will try their best to show their support and organizational capacity in launching a resistance. The incentives were not as high two years ago, the hope of an end to the oppression and hopes of paybacks were not as near.

 

Then comes the other surprise factors. The strongest Prime Minister in history of Bangladesh could not contain a young newbie grassroots leader of her party during Gazipur city corporation elections.  Even when our PM’s clout and stature was at the peak we saw Ivy-Shamim Osman, Afsar Uddin- Simin Hossain Rimi type organizational chaos. At the end of her tenure, how she would expect to contain all the deprived leaders of the party? Esp. how she would dissuade the local leaders  who know it very well that if they again remain within the list of the deprived, if they have to pave the way for the other leader to become the MP or Upazilla Chairman, their political career is practically over.

This factor will weigh heavily in suppressing the opposition. May be the opposition BNP activists will see unexpected allies among the ruling party deprived factions.

 

Then other shocking surprises like 1/11, August 15 is always there in the horizon.

The facts above suggest it very clearly that if the government has any plan to oppress the opposition and hold a one party election, although it will not be impossible, it will not be walking on a cake. If we go back to the Terminator movie analogy – precision planning by the strongest super computer Skynet system and all the full proof pre-emptive acts to protect the planned future failed to human resilience and surprises.  Prime Minister Hasina, with all organs of the state behind her with solid subservience, may have found herself invincible during last four and half years. But her invincibility will be seriously tested by a skeptic administration, a chaotic feuding organization she leads and a n invigorated opposition.

 

[ In the third and final installment of the analysis, we'll discuss the best exit plan of PM Hasina and about the 3rd Hasina Government if PM Hasina somehow succeeds in hanging on to power]

We are at, possibly, the last lull before the next storm hits Bangladesh. Ramadan will let BNP and AL figure out where they stand and what they want to do next. The months after Eid are likely to be as action-packed and eventful as the stretch between February and May.

One worry I have heard for a long time is that AL won’t allow elections at all. I do not believe this will come to pass. Awami League will certainly tilt the playing field their way as much as possible, but ultimately, I think they will call elections. There is a significant section of AL that believes that BNP will come to any election, under any terms, because the party has seen that it is hopeless at street agitations.

So, the question becomes, under what circumstances should BNP agree to participate in the election?

Here, as in much else, the Mahabharat has a point to make.

Before an epic war, two leaders from the two opposing sides go to see Lord Krishna. He is sleeping, so one sits at his head and the other at his feet. Once he awakens, they both ask for his support. Krishna offers them a choice: they can either choose his vast armies, including the elite corp called Narayani Sena, or himself, in a noncombatant role. The two captains made their choices and both departed feeling that they had gotten the better of the other side.

BNP should make the following offer to Awami League and Hasina, either:

i. They will abide by the terms of the 15th Amendment, and go to election with the current EC, with all the current MPs and ministers still remaining in office, only if Sheikh Hasina steps down and lets someone else, potentially President Abdul Hamid or Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, act as interim head of government, or

ii. Hasina can stay as PM, but Parliament has to be disbanded, with all MPs and ministers resigning, and an interim group of ten advisors, as non-partisan as possible, to act as the cabinet similar to the past caretaker governments. Hasina could be the caretaker chief.

And then sit back and let Hasina mull the choices, and the consequences of each.

May be there soon will be a winner in Narayanganj City Corporation election. But question mounts, will she or he really be a winner eventually or will they represent a victory of their backers?

May be NCC citizens are getting an elected rep, they may be the only winner. But without any clout, control, power, money– in Bangladesh context under current system, a mayor is a talpatar shepai — simply a symbolic city father.

But then rest of it is also a lose lose lose lose game.

If Shamim Osman finally pulls through a victory, fair election or not, the demand for CTG will gain momentum. Sheikh Hasina and her ruling part that backed Shamim Osman will lose by winning.

If Osman loses to Ivy, both Awami League and opposition BNP loses big time. Anti CTG rhetoric will gain traction. Tainted civil society ( We all know who they are- new faces Syed Abul Maqsud, Mizanur Rahman Khan, Rubayat Ferdous with Anams and Motiur Rahmans in the background) will again stat jumping with double vigor. Civil society thinks Ivy is their candidate. Selina Hayat Ivy is civil society’s dream candidate. A hardcore Awami League leader, close to Sheikh Hasina currently at odds with another Awami League candidate not in good terms with the civil society leaders. But by no means civil society’s customized candidates are any good for a long-term healthy grassroots based democracy.

If Taimur wins, BNP also loses. Hasina will say, see we lost election to BNP and we can hold fair elections.

This Taimur Alam Khondokar is a pathetic case. If BNP wants to come back, exactly this sort of candidates BNP must shun. This man is running such a lackluster campaign that even Amar Desh is mentioning him in 3rd sequence after Shamim/ Ivy. He cannot talk, cannot make a point. cannot organize get out the vote, cannot gain on anti Awami League incumbency of Shamim, and capitalize on anti Narayanganj incumbency of Ivy. Only thing he is saying very ineffectively is “EVM mani na”, “EC is bad”. Are vhai he is not running against EC. He is running against Ivy and Shamim. And he must have made this a campaign of a referendum to Awami Leagues misrule.
This man is a failure in all way. He was BRTA chairman. That was shame of a record. I don’t know why BNP can’t find a good new fresh face, young blood. There are so many business leader from N Ganj, so many sports stars. Every time I see him walking along Narayanganj roads, he reminds me of the Zombies at the TV series “the Walking Dead”.

BNP must know that if they keep on relying on these Zombies, whatever misrule Awami League exerts on Bangladesh, they have no chance of winning back Bangladesh.

In CCC election an ex Awami Leagues, soft spoken clean image candidate helped BNP regain CCC mayoral seat.

In that context BNP needed Selina Hayat Ivy as their candidate. An honest, smart and bold young woman. In several debates I watched in TV, she was only one who talked some sense and was found to understand what it means to be a city corporation Mayor.

The latest news from Narayanganj tells us that Government decided to ignore Election Commissions request to deploy Armed forces for election eve / day violence prevention.

What will happen in Narayanganj on the election day — no one except the God and Sheikh Hasina can tell. But this blogger can assume that the election day events will be based on which advisor Sheikh Hasina listened to.

It could be a repeat of Bhola, which will be impeccably hidden under the carpet by a submissive friendly media ( In Bhola style). Shamim Osman will just rob the election by forcefully bagging 99% of rural Narayanganj vote.

Or if Mrs. Hasina this time listens to a different advisor, it could be an “apparent” fair election with Sheikh Hasina niece Ivy winning against Shamim Osman. That means civil society is managed for the time being and for next national election, a good example has just been created — ” FOR HOLDING A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION, NEITHER WE NEED A CARE TAKER GOVERNMENT NOR MILITARY DEPLOYMENT”.

Updated: Meanwhile, over at The Economist, the party continues.

The poisonous politics of Bangladesh: Reversion to type

Banyan: In the name of the father

Favorite sub-heading: The Sheikh of things to come. Wish I had thought of that myself.

The storm created by the article in the Economist and some of its allegations have, by now, reverberated through Bangladesh’s blogosphere. A question that keeps arising is the motivation behind this article. A close scrutiny of the Economist article makes clear that this article marks a clear break in continuity from previous Economist articles, as well as the general editorial line that the Economist has adopted towards the successive anti-BNP governments that have in power in Bangladesh since 2007. This article has cast doubts on the general fairness of the 2008 election (“bags of Indian cash and advice”) and the entirely positive predictions made about granting transit to India (”Indian security corridor”). It has hinted that Hasina’s shenanigans are not going entirely unnoticed in the outside world (“Sheikh Hasina, who is becoming increasingly autocratic”). It has emphatically burst Hasina’s favorite claim about, in general, being more honest than the previous government (“Corruption flourishes at levels astonishing even by South Asian standards”), as well as her boasts that her dynasty is better than the Zia dynasty (“Mrs Zia’s family dynasty, also corrupt”). And certainly most gratingly for Hasina, the article comes right out and points out that her obsession with her father is starting to border on the abnormal (“Hasina is building a personality cult around her murdered father”).

What could lead to such a dramatic u-turn? Not just some well-placed leads or a momentary whim. This article is the forerunner of large things to come.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Bangladesh next month. The questions has been asked: why does he need to come to Bangladesh all of a sudden? Part of the answer may be that we are in one of those rare moments when an Indian Prime Minister needs his Bangladeshi counterpart’s help, and not the other way round.

2010 was a magical year for India, and for Singh. India set a record of sorts by hosting the heads of state of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, BJP continued its in-fighting and slide to irrelevance, and there were no clear challenges on the horizon. 2011 has seen a dramatic reversal of events. The 2G spectrum has seen the former telecom minister sent to jail. He has, in turn, implicated both Singh and Home Minister Chidambaram in the conspiracy. This scandal, its inept handling by the PMO, and the subsequent demands that the PMO be kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal bill, has irreversibly stained Singh’s image as a clean politician. The Supreme Court has finally instructed the police to inquire into vote-buying allegations regarding the no-confidence motion brought after the nuclear deal with the US. All of these present potent challenges to the government.

Singh has also been weakened by a coterie of senior ministers who have been leading the charge to bring Rahul Gandhi to the forefront. While the young Gandhi has been an abject failure in his mission of reviving his party in the Hindu heartland of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, the full scope of the perils facing his party and his leadership will only be apparent when (not if) Congress loses the next election. However, Congress is now a reflexively dynastic party, and Singh has proved to be ineffective in keeping his council of ministers under control and prevent factionalism by those using Rahul’s name.

In this circumstance, Singh’s upcoming trip to Bangladesh represents the equivalent of the Indian cricket team making a tour of Holland. The Bangladeshi government will be fawning and servile, all demands will be met, photo opportunities will abound, and Singh can bask in the glow of taming a country where one in four individualis an ISI stooge.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this article in the Economist is an effort by the anti-Singh faction in the UPA government to pre-emptively tarnish any of the gains that may accrue to him from the Bangladesh visit and further solidify his status as lame-duck prime minister. If we hypothetically assume for a second that bags of cash did change hands prior to the 2008 election, the receiver, Sheikh Hasina, would probably not divulge too many details. But the person giving the cash could. Coincidentally, in the absence of Sonia Gandhi for her mystery surgery, the four-person team which is in charge has not included Pranab Mukherjee, the senior-most Congress minister in the cabinet. It has included A. K. Anthony, the second-most senior Congress minister.

India has never handled dynastic transitions particularly well. The upcoming one promises to have enough drama to rival Mughal-e-Azam. But unlike past instances, Bengal will hopefully be spared direct involvement this time around. However, collateral damage, as evinced by the Economist article, may be unavoidable.

Responding to the strike that a tiresome group of people called for no reason, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asks: who is better patriot and protector of the country’s interests than me?

Who indeed? Surely none. Yet, we offer up a few answers.

We could go on and on. Hasina also revealed that her party lost the 2001 election despite getting more votes because of their strident guardianship of our national intersts. And not because they only got 62 out of 300 seats.

A leader and an educator. Much like Marcus Aurelius.

The recently concluded municipal election highlights several points about the current trend of Bangladesh politics and further fuels the debate about possibility of fair elections under a political government. But before going into the messages this election sent and what our democracy can learn form this election, let get a short overview of the results and other political issues relevant to this election.

1. In a snapshot, the overall results show a near equal number of victorious candidates from ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP). If one adds pended Cox’s bazaar, BrahmanBaria municipals in BNP column, Tangail to AL, the margin might go in BNP’s side. Then hypothetically if one adds 10 plus Stolen Noakhali/ Feni/ Barisal councils to BNP, the gap widens further in BNP’s favor.

2. This election gives a good sampling of Bangladesh. This election was neither one of the major city Corporation election nor totally rural Union Porishod election. This election samples the population where urban folks come in contact with rural Bangladesh. These are small towns of Bangladesh where villagers travel on almost daily basis to sell their produce or do necessary purchases. These are the perfect mixing bowl of urban and rural Bangladesh. Unlike Dhaka where major concern would be traffic or load shedding or the remote village, where people concerns mostly about price of seeds, fertilizer etc. — these city council election covers both sort of perspective.
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Awami League 22

BNP 15

Rebel and Independent : 12

 

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1. This time the result has less surprise factor.

2. Out of 19 local Governments in Barisal, only 1 went to BNP, rest went to Awami League. And this brings the most interesting part of this discussion.  Barisal proper has never voted for Awami League in Independent Bangladesh. Even in 2008 election, while two Barisal Sadar seats went to BNP, rest two went to JP. AL won two seats in periphery remote Island districts. Even during last lcal government election most of Barisal went to BNP. This time, people wanted a change. Few factors worked. In Bangladesh, anti-incumbency will always be a very powerful factor. Also people in mariginal areas think that a government supporting candidate may do something for the locality.

3. Compared to Barisal Khulna however did not show much anti incumbency and all other 14 sats BNP won are from Khulna Division.  Only in two major cities BNP won last election– they were Barisal Sadar ( Majibur Rahman Sarwar) and Khulna Sadar ( Najrul Islam manju).

4. More or less this is how the election result was expected. Rangpur was abig surprise. This time Barisal came as a big surprise and Khulna compensated and overall expected 30-19  breakdown is maintained.

Results Published oline as of 3 AM BD Time, 4PAM US Eastern Time, 9 PM GMT

The Daily Star

Out of the 72 mayoral posts,

BNP 33

Awami League (AL)  18

Jamaat-e-Islami 5.

Rebel candidates affiliated with AL got 6

BNP affiliated rebels got 3.

Jatiya Party 1,

Independents 6

Sheershanews.com

All 72 local Government results are available:

BNP 32

Awami League 19

Independent: 5,

Jamaat 5

JP 1

BDNews24.com

 

65 of 72 available

BNP 31

Awami League 16

Independent 6

Jamaat 5

JP 1

Daily Prothom Alo website:

BNP 22

Awami League 16

Jamaat 5

Independent 3

JP 2

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Although one should not see too much political tide in the non partisan local government election, it is impossible to ignore the following facts

1. In 2008 election; BNP and it’s allies lost all seats in these two divisions except five Bogra seats and One SirajGanj seat of Mrs. Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku.

2. Rangpur Division was supposed to be JP stronghold. So, crushing defeat of  of JP affiliated candidates in local governmnet election may herald the demise of Ershad’s clout in that area. And these results may put Ershad in a tough spot during bargaining for seat sharing during next Parliament elections.

3. Jamaat’s winning of 5 City Councils should not be very surprising. Jamaat always did good in local governmnet elections in border towns of North Bengal. 

4. Victory of BNP affiliated candidates in more than half of total City Councils may be unexpected to many observers. Although BNP’s support base was good in Rajshahi division, BNP even did not have the bare minimal support in Rangpur divisions. The competitions used to be either between AL-Jamaat, Jamaat-JP or Jamaat-AL. Suddenly a lot of BNP affiliated leaders won significant amount of vote in former Ershad stronghold city councils.  

Now lets see what happens tomorrow. Barisal and Khulna Division local government election will take place this day.

Khairul Haque is going to be the new Chief Justice of Bangladesh. Awaim League chose him superseding two more senior justices: Abdul Matin and Shah Abu Naeem Mominur Rahman. Khairul Haque will go into retirement on May 17, 2011. He will then be the Chief Advisor of next caretaker government.

All governments stand, at a crucial point in their tenure, on crossroads. What if BNP had decided to provide Sheikh Hasina SSF security during May 2004? What if Sheikh Hasina had decided to conduct early elections, as she had promised during her pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, and when the Four-Party Alliance was still in a conceptual stage? What if Khaleda Zia had agreed to the demands of a Caretaker Government, as Barrister Abdus Salam Taluqdar had urged her?

What if Sheikh Hasina had decided not to violate seniority norms in her quest to ensure Awami League’s re-election in 2014?

Why is Khairul Haque controversial? He took the highly unusual step of deciding that a constitutional amendment, in this case Bangladesh’s Fifth Amendment, was illegal. So vitriolic and anti-BNP was his verdict that the Appellate Division, when considering it, had to “modify” his initial verdict.

What was so wrong with his verdict? Well, there is something called the political question doctrine. It essentially means that the Court is not well-situated to delve into certain questions, that are by nature political, and should be left to the political branches of government. Getting the courts mingled up in political questions erodes public confidence in the judicial system.

Does Khairul Haque like to comment on political matters? His own words speak for himself:

Major General Ziaur Rahman B.U., who might have his own interest in proving himself but
what interest of the people of Bangladesh was served in spending money for the
personal aggrandizement of one person.

Major General Ziaur Rahman, BU, psc., in exercise of [his]
autocratic and illegal power, not only made our Constitution subservient to the Martial
Law Proclamations etc. but also changed the basic structure of the Constitution

[Ziaur Rahman] knew very well that the
Proclamations etc. are all illegal and so also their activities. As such, they again came
round and sought to hide all their illegalities in the bosom of the said very Constitution
which they disgraced time and again in their free wills, whims and caprices. In their
such pursuits, ironically, there was no dearth of hypocrisy in that although the Dictators
freely truncate and modify the various provisions of the Constitution all the time to suit
their ends but when those very illegal Proclamations etc. become part of our sacred
Constitution, those become unchallengable, as argued by the learned Advocates for the
respondents.

We have already seen above how Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmed, Justice
Sayem and Major General Ziaur Rahman, B.U., psc., the three usurpers treated our
Constitution. This Constitution was written on the blood , toil and tears of milions of
Bangalees but this was treated not even as one ‘Dog Act’ or ‘Rat Act’ , they treated it
most disgracefully although all of them took oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the
said very Constitution but even a plane ticket gets more attention and are from a
chance traveller to Bangladesh.

Major General Ziaur Rahman being an
usurper to the Office of the President and in the Office of the legally non-existent Chief
Martial Law Administrator, had no authority to change the Constitution.

[Ziaur Rahman] made the secular Republic of Bangladesh, a theocratic State, thereby the cause of the liberation War of Bangladesh was betrayed.

As an aside, Khairul Haque returned to Bangladesh in 1970 after getting his law degree from England. We look forward to hearing what his contriubtion was to the Liberation War.

But, let us resume:

Major General Ziaur Rahman B.U. psc., did not even stop there.
The autocratic Government was soon degenerated into a military dictatorship. He not
only continued with the illegalities committed by his predecessors in office but
destroyed the basic structures of the Constitution on the false pretext of repealing the
‘undemocratic’ provisions of the Fourth Amendment.

Quotations marks around the work undemocratic when talking about the Fourth Amendment, aka BAKSAL. You can’t make this stuff up.

Major General Ziaur Rahman BU, could attain the highest
office in Bangladesh apparently without much efforts.

Writing a verdict is a rare art form. You start with the applicable laws, apply them to the facts at hand, and reach your conclusion. When you start throwing around words like usurper, autocratic, and hypocrisy from the very beginning, it is quite clear that this is not a verdict, this is the strongly-held opinion of an essentially political person who also happens to be a judge.

This is the person who will be ensured with holding a free and fair election in 2014. Perhaps someone should check K. M. Hasan’s availability.

Mahmudur Rahman printed stories involving allegations of corruption about the Prime Minister’s family and her cabinet.

He is in prison and his newspaper has been forced to stop publishing.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury wrote an article in the Daily Star analyzing BNP’s victory in the Chittagong City Corporation elections.

He is in prison.

Shahiduddin Chowdhury said that Bangabandhu cannot avoid responsibility for the forty thousand people killed during his administration.

He is brutalized, denied medical treatment, and then sent to prison.

The list goes on and on.

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In June 17, Chittagong elected itself a new mayor. BNP supported Monjur Alam beat out the incumbent Mohiuddin Chowdhury, who is also the president of Chittagong Awami League by 95,528 votes. Manzur obtained 4,79,145 votes, while Mohiuddin obtained 3,83,617 votes. Mohiuddin was last elected in 2005, when he beat out BNP’s Mir Mohammed Nasiruddin by a margin of 91,480 votes.

Mohiuddin Chowdhury, who served as a naval commando in our 1971 War of Liberation, is probably the longest-serving public official in Bangladesh’s history. His record, serving continuously for seventeen years, is likely to survive for a while. In my few visits to Chittagong, I had been consistently impressed with the city’s cleanliness. After serving just five-year terms, our national leaders have extended hangover when they lose office. Keeping this in context, it must be said that Mohiuddin has handled the end of his seventeen-year old tenure, throughout which he enjoyed the status and rank of a Minister of State, quite well. It’s also extremely disappointing to see political commentators sympathetic to Awami League making this a referendum on Mohiuddin Chowdhury the person. Winning and losing are just normal outcomes of elections; they do not translate to “rejection by the people.”

Monjur Alam was first elected as a City Councillor in 1994, the same year that Mohiuddin, his former mentor, was first elected to the office of mayor. He fell out with Mohiuddin during the tenure of the former Caretaker Government and subsequently left Awami League before the 2008 elections; contesting it as an independent and losing. In this election, Monjur essentially took a leaf out of Mohiuddin’s 2005 strategies and used it to better effect against the incumbent; it was extremely impressive to see him matching Mohiuddin worker-for-worker as election results were being announced. Considering the fact that he is universally described as soft-spoken and polite after at least seventeen years in the extremely cut-throat world of Chittagong local politics, is a successful entrepreneur with more than eighty business ventures, and has established more than thirty schools and other charitable institutions so far; what was said of Bilbo Baggins must also be said of the mayor-elect: there is more to him than meets the eye.

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Updated XV: BNP wins 28 out of 41 Councillor seats.

Updated XIV: Mohiuddin Chowdhury alleges vote-rigging; has not accepted election result. Manzur Alam wants to work with Mohiuddin for Chittagong’s development.

Updated XIII: And finally, Manzur Alam unofficially declared the Mayor of Chittagong. He wins by a margin of 95,528 votes. Congratulations to him and to Mohiuddin Chowdhury, for his two decades of service to Chittagong. Mohiuddin is, by far, one of the ablest administrators in Bangladesh today. Let us hope he will be given a cabinet post by Hasina.

Update XII: With 580 out of 673 voting centers reporting, Manzur Alam is leading Mohiuddin Chowdhury by 88,201 votes. This is interesting, because in 2005 ( 4 years into incumbency), when BNP’s popularity was at its lowest point, BNP andidate Mir Nasir lost by around 91,000 votes.

Updated XI: With 400 out of 673 voting centers reporting, Manzur Alam (257,645 votes) is leading Mohiuddin Chowdhury (223,971 votes) by 33,674 votes.

Updated X: Manzur Alam now leading Mohiuddin by 17,599 votes.

Updated XI: Manzur Alam, like Lionel Messi, accelerating and pulling away now. Daily Star has him at 161,312, leading Mohiuddin at 147,006 by 14,306 votes.

Updated VIII: Daily Star gives up; reports Manzur leading Mohiuddin by more than 5,000 votes.

Updated VII: Prothom Alo reports Manzur leading 83,843 to Mohiuddin’s 78,844. Bdnews24 concurs.

Updated VI: Prothom Alo, Daily Star, and Bdnews24 are delaying reporting Manzur Alam’s lead, even though Returning Officer Jasmine Tuli has announced Manzur to be in the lead.

Updated V: Manzur Alam jumps into the lead. He has 58,395 votes to Mohiuddin’s 55,043, for a lead of 3,352 votes.

Updated IV: Daily Star reports Mohiuddin leading by 2,828 votes (41,425 – 38,597).

Updated III: One dead. Situation threatening to turn spiral out of control.

Updated II: Manzur’s supporters gathering outside Election Commission office. One police officer seriously injured in clashes between Manzur’s and Mohiuddin’s supporters. Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Manzur Alam’s Chief Election Agent, claims that the Election Commission officers are not allowing the publication of results from the centers in which Manzur is leading.

Updated I: The unofficial result shows Mohiuddin leading by only by 2,003 votes (36,799 – 34,796), but the figures coming out of the Election Commission consistently show Mohiuddin enjoying a far higher lead. According to the EC, Mohiuddin leads by 4,365 votes (28,750 – 24,385), more than double what the unofficial figures are predicting.

The odds were that the incumbent, Mayor Mohiuddin Chowdhury would easily beat out his main supporter, Manzur Alam. Things started to get interesting when police detained Slahuddin Quader Chowdhury for six hours the night before the election. They wanted to arrest him, he refused to get down from his car (and stayed inside all six hours), the news quickly spread all across the city and thousands of opposition activists turned up to see what was going on, the Election Commission refused to be used as pawns for Chowdhury’s arrest, and he was ultimately allowed to go free. Unfortunately, the Government seems to be sticking to its ill-conceived domino theory, that led it to grossly manipulate the Bhola by-election: any BNP truimph will in turn precipitate a bigger truimph and lead to a more confident opposition which shall pressurize the government further.

All this only leads an air of tragic inevitability to the Government’s attempts to rig the Chittagong City election. First Mohiuddin Chowdhury, with 23,153 votes, was leading Manzur Alam, with 21,692 votes, by a meager 1,614 votes. But then, by magic (digital magic), Mohiuddin Chowdhury has 24,579 votes, while Manzur Alam has 19,051 votes, and the lead is a much healthier 5,528 votes. Can anyone explain how the government candidate’s vote tally can increase while the opposition candidate’s decreases? Actually, I’m sure most of us can, but the explanation is not a pleasant one.

Thu, Jan 29th, 2009 12:12 am BdST
bdnews24.com correspondent

Dhaka, Jan 28 (bdnews24.com) – The Election Commission has requested banks and other institutions not to make national identity cards mandatory for their services, as an estimated 15 million eligible citizens are yet to get their cards, an EC official said on Wednesday.

“The EC has already written to the Cabinet Division, Bangladesh Bank, secretary to the President’s office, all ministries, divisions and relevant organisations not to make the national ID card compulsory for opening bank accounts, getting credit and other services,” EC secretary Humayun Kabir told bdnews24.com.

“The Commission took the decision because ID cards have not reached all and a gazette notification by the government is also still awaited.

“Some 20-30 percent of eligible citizens, or 15 million people, have yet to receive their cards for reasons ranging from failing to register as voters or non-collection of cards issued.”

At least 20 percent of more than 80 million registered voters have not collected their cards, he said.

“Mistakes in the cards already issued are another problem,” he said.

“Moreover, the government hasn’t yet issued a gazette notification making the cards ‘mandatory’,” said Kabir.

The National Identity Authorities Ordinance 2008 requires the government to issue the gazette to make the ID cards compulsory.

Director of the National Identity Card Project, Brig Gen Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury, told bdnews24.com, “The project will start updating the voter list with photos and distributing the national ID cards afresh, if the government asks.”

“Pilot programmes will be undertaken before updating the voter list and national ID card project. The first such pilots will be done in places around Dhaka,” said Kabir.

According to the Voter List Ordinance, updating should be done annually during the month of January.

“But because of the national and Upazila polls, the Election Commission could not do the job within the timeframe this year,” said the EC secretary.

The fresh updating will start after the City Corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong and subsequent municipal elections, starting in April, he said.

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That what about the claim that this Godsent voter list prevented 15 million fake voters?

Do any of you happen to know any schoolteacher, specifically a primary school teacher in Bangladesh? If you happen to meet them you will know how busy they have been lately. Teaching jobs in government schools esp. in rural schools are high-pressure jobs these days. The teachers are now constantly and meticulously supervised by donor agencies as well as the government, and in addition to teaching responsibilities they are now burdened with a plethora of housekeeping jobs including data entry, chart making, reporting etc.
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What if Awami League wins the election…

1. We will no longer hear much about judhdhaporadhi, Islami Jongibad etc.
2. There may be half-hearted efforts to try some Jamaat leader and with lackluster government effort, these cases will be killed in high court.
3. With less biting street agitation and weak opposition by BNP; there will be relative stability in the country.
4. Under better governance, the Economy will be relatively better.
5. BACC ( Bangladesh anti corruption commission) will turn into BCC ( Bangladesh Clown Commission). Cases lodged, both against BNP/AL leaders will never see light again.
6. Ershad will become the President ( God Forbid!). Anisul Islam Mahmud will do ‘kara kari’ to become foreign minister and Ziauddin Bablu will do the same to become education minister.
7. Sajib Wajed Joy will return to Bangladesh permanently and be a powerful force in deal policy making.
8. Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman will return in six months.
9. All the election commissioners will be very happy.
10. Many bloggers will stop blogging. Facebook will see a drop in traffic from Dhaka.
11. Hossain Zillur Rahman will land a big consultancy and who knows chittagong Mayorship.
12. CPD will remain in hibernation and Shujan secretary will take an extended vacation after mission accomplishment.
13. General Moeen will lose his job.

What if BNP wins the election…

1. We will hear nothing but judhdhaporadhi, Islami Jongibad etc.
2. Khaleda will be in a loss. She will not even find 5 suitable persons to make ministers.
3. There will be immediate street agitation-strike-oborodh. Early elections will be forced until the chosen people win. Bangla hobe vietnam Afhganistan Thailandistan.
4. WIth the bureaucracy, media, civil society, elite society lined up aggressively against government party, as class war as well as a cultural war type situation will emerge. The political high command will be paranoid and hesitant leading to a weak governance. The Economy will crumble.
5. BACC ( Bangladesh anti corruption commission) will turn into BCC ( Bangladesh Clown Commission). Cases lodged, both against BNP/AL leaders will never see light again.
6. Ershad will go to jail. Anisul Islam Mahmud, Ziauddin Bablu will go back to oblivion and Kazi Zafar will return to Australia and re-apply for food handout.
7. Jamaat this time will start ‘para pari’ for President (yaaak!) as well as four ministries including foreign ministry (ughhhh!).
8. Tarique Rahman- Arafat Rahman will return to Bangladesh in six weeks. Both will be cured of their illnesses miraculously. Policy making deal making will resume in full swing.
9. All the election commissioners will be very unhappy and start looking for job.
10. Many more bloggers will start blogging. Facebook will see an unprecedented rise in traffic from Dhaka. Thousands new facebook groups will be created every day.
11. Hossain Zillur Rahman will land a big consultancy and who knows chittagong Mayorship.
12. CPD will re-emerge. SHUJAN Secretary’s vacation will be postponed for few more years.
13. General Moeen will lose his job.

[ Disclaimer: this is a disgruntled bloggers innocent satire. Readers are asked not to take anything seriously out of this meaningless post. ]

The current election commission in Bangladesh is, in my view, the worst and most biased election commissions in the history of Bangladesh. Today, they hosted a grand voter roll completion ceremony. Guest of honor was the army chief Moeen, his personal Secretary AKA Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and a corps of diplomats. There was no politician, not a single one ( except Gen Moeen U Ahmed). Politicians were not invited.

EC should be thanked for at least exposing who they consider their real clients are and where their allegiance is. In an ideal world, EC is there for dealing with political parties and politicians. But this SH ( Shamsul Huda, Shakhawat Hossain, Suhul Hossain) election commission does not believe in that. Their decisions are made in the military intelligence office and definitely their allegiance lies there and it is also getting clear that they don’t want the politicians to participate in the elections they plan to conduct. They don’t care what the politicians say. For them it is more important what the diplomats say. Hence diplomats instead of politicians were invited in today’s voter roll completion ceremony.

The government, the election commission and their trumpeteering media have been boasting, for months, that how many less number of voters are their in this new voter list. Inferring an easy conclusion, the message our government/EC/ media cronies want to spread is that in this 2008 voter list there are 12 million lesser voter and this means this government has prevented registration of 12 million fake voters.

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This Bodi Majumdar was the instrumental intellectual warrior against politicization of EC during Khaleda Zia rule. He was all over, all vocal in favor of EC which will be free of political influence. And he did leave no stone unturned in finding out every possible fault the previous EC could make.

But today, on the eve of another politically motivated, ill-intentioned act of EC, he is already out with sword to defend the decision.

The shocking unlawful and immoral election commission rule of depriving mainstream BNP of EC recognition came late yesterday evening. I presume prothom-Alo went to press within a couple of hours. And in that couple of hours, he came up with this rather long piece of garbage in the name of BNP constitution analysis to defend the catastrophic decision of Election commission. Look at this Bodi Majumdar! What, then, did he preach all these years!! And after his menacingly long piece of trash analysis he concludes that the decision of EC should be supported in greater public interest. Which public you are talking about Mr Bodi the Majumdar? And what interest you are talking about? And what was your real interest all these years?

I started seeing the shadow of Ershad in our current CTG’s activities.

Look, how they are handling BNP.
First they enticed in some power greedy ideology devoid turncoat politicians to work in their payrole with an aim to hijack the whole party. Failing to hijack the party as their stooges in BNP got expeled from the party, CTG now has actively started a scheme to capture the party office of BNP.
As indoor politics opened, party offices were supposed to be allowed to be opened. However BNP office remained under seige during the last two days.
(more…)

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