The Parliamentary election of 2008 will be recorded as the ushering of a new age in Bangladesh democracy; it will definitely be a new and different kind of election.
Let’s discuss why this will not be a different election and why this will be.
A different Election: Why Not
1. First election with a photo ID card. Definitely not. Because, after spending hundreds of crores of taka and paying all these to MILBUS, it is now decided that the voter ID card is not required for casting the ballot. Moreover voter ID card makes people vulnerable to disenfranchisement in multiple ways. There could have been pre-election night/ Election Day violence in minority or committed communities and snatching away of all the ID cards. A person easily could have been disenfranchised if she/he lost/damaged the voter ID card. A voter list with photo was enough and even that will not do much. Small-scale rigging, ballot stuffing will happen and they usually cancel out each other when both main political parties are in the race.
2. First Election with no black money. No No. If one says this, then it is a joke. Money was spent, most are black money. And most of these are spent last night. All parties are doing it, BNP, AL, JP, and Jamaat. If you happen to see arrests are being made only in one side, then it can be guessed that police is showing some bias in this last moment. Money those could not be spent for color posters and gates are now being spent for slum distribution,
3. First election under a free Judiciary. Is judiciary really free or unbiased? Can we all say this in a chorus?
A different Election: Why
1. It is a different election because it being conducted under a digitally communicated Bangladesh. It is first election under nationwide full proof cell phone coverage. This is the first election in BD when almost all presiding and deputy presiding officer, every polling officer, every polling agent, every election activist and every household/community has a cell phone. Not only a cell phone, but a cell phone with in-built still or video camera and mms capability. Any intimidation at community level, any show of force at any other level will be immediately reported to concerned authorities. Polling center level data would be sent via sms to media, candidates HQ as well as election watch bodies. This cell phone connectivity makes voter intimidation, polling center capture, ballot stuffing, DC level, EC level rigging nearly impossible. It will be an election of cell phone age. An election in digital Bangladesh.
2. It will be different election because it will be the first election in a Bangladesh with a very proactive, energetic, youth and ever-vigilant digital media. Those days of a golden box rotating in BTV studio are over. A powerful contingent of electronic media journalists are breathing at the neck of everybody concerned with this election. All the DCs of major/ vulnerable districts were on all the major electronic media yesterday. Constant media surveillance will undoubtedly dissuade the DCs from even thinking of doing any unfair means.
We are already in a digital Bangladesh. It is a different election, the first election under a digital Bangladesh.
Let this election be a great one in our history, not only a different one.