Thursday, October 16, 2008

Looking for good politicians with good image


IT SEEMS the time has come for political image-makers to consider ways to recast their own public image.

A good image is very important for a political candidate to get elected. We usually make judgments about a person according to the way that he or she dresses, behaves, and expresses his or her opinions. But to make a good image in politics, a person must work hard, listen to what people need and do that not just promoting own interests, be inclusive, accept good ideas whether they are right wing or left wing. One that has the fortitude to tackle the hard situations with fervence and integrity, despite the whinging antics of any opposition when it is obvious it is in the best interests of the people they represent.

Although Bangladesh started its political journey with a parliamentary system right after independence, but very few came out as successful politicians with good image. Part I of the constitution of Bangladesh asserts that all power belongs to the people and the constitution, being the supreme law of the country, which supersedes any other laws and regulations. Instead it seems that all the people of Bangladesh belong to the power of politicians. Experiment with the people of Bangladesh time to time was a matter of exchanging power between the political parties. They were busy to grab power and make money whether they were in power or not. They always tried to control the desire or need of Bangladeshis. They hardly had time to give any attention to reform anything for public interest.

No doubt, Bangladesh is now in critical political juncture, but people still have faith and hope and glad to know that some major political parties are looking for candidates who have good image and clean records in their political career for the next general election which is scheduled to be held on December 18, 2008. According to the news, BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) is going to launch a countrywide survey to pick out prospective candidates with clean image. The party has appointed 150 professional researchers to do the job who will look for candidates irrespective of if they are reformists or non-reformists and the ones who are popular among the voters and have unblemished character. The survey personnel will report to a high profile team appointed by the chairperson.

Awami League (AL) president Sheikh Hasina, who is now in abroad for treatment after being released by an executive order, emphasized the same necessity if someone would have political ambition. “Without paying attention to the best interests of the people, nobody can achieve state power in a democratic system,” she said recently in Brussels, Belgium while she was addressing party’s Belgium and European chapters. In a recent interview with a Dhaka based English daily, her party member, Begum Motia Chowdhury, the former minister (1996-2001) and presidium member of AL, said that their party will obviously focus on good politicians in the next general elections who respect people's power and their judgment. Having lesson from 1/11, no one should encourage those quarters who always use politics for their own purposes, she added.

Promoting democracy, ensuring development, and denying space to terrorism are the key challenges Bangladesh faces right now. Thanks to the then lawmakers, a parliamentary system of government was proposed in the Twelfth Amendment Act in August and this was ratified by a constitutional referendum on September 15, 1991. The belief that parliament is the arena of the people or that the politicians are representatives of those people, is sadly waning rapidly. Rather, they are seen as only self-seeking self-interested individuals who use the political role as a stepping stone to fame and future opportunities of wealth. Most people feel they are duped into believing they have a say in how their country runs by the sham that is voting, especially the compulsory preferential type. Though parliamentary elections were hotly contested and placed, the parliament never functioned as an effective accountability mechanism. A parliament usually lasts long with genuine arguments. Politicians tried to demonize their political opponents. Very few posed fair-minded approach to politics.

It's crucially important for Bangladesh to find good candidates as many of the leaders of different political parties have already been convicted, accused or on the run. Nowadays, it is more important than ever. Corruption is endemic in Bangladesh, and greed seems to be limitless. Bangladesh needs politicians who fit the mood not only of their own populace, but that of the world and who tackles well the fiscal policies of the country and encourages growth and confidence in the community and the standing in the eyes of the world. Many Politicians in Bangladesh have forgotten that they are the servants and voice of the people. This may be idealistic but a future of true representation would see a more even-handed approach to services and utilities throughout the country.

Images, as literal or metaphorical idols, have consistently been accused of having enormous power over human minds, as in Plato’s parable of the cave. Contemporary politics are often characterized as ‘image politics,’ in which style matters more than substance and personalities more than policies.

A politician with good image has the ability to compromise. Because a politician deals with people with different opinions, the ability to develop cordial and compromising proposals is a huge advantage. In other words, a politician serves the people using the best ideas and plans from all sources, regardless of political views. He/She approaches for common ground in every situation. Because the common good politics is the politics of empowerment; it is the politics that espouses cooperation not competition, the hand up and not just the hand out. Idea of the common good offers a clear, optimistic and above all progressive vision for the future. A good politician is one who actually supports the people they represent. He/She lies when it will benefit the people. A good politician will work to accomplish everything they promised they would, and has a very good explanation when they fail, and not a lie.

Politics is an expression of general people. According to the Bangladesh Economic Review 2008, Ministry of Finance, the present literacy rate of Bangladesh is 63%. Very few of them know how to select the right person for the state. From the beginning of political journey in Bangladesh, some politicians are polluting the politics in Bangladesh in different ways. Religion exerts a powerful influence on politics. Religion and freedom of expression, religion and human rights, religion and women's rights, religion and democracy, or religion and freedom are always used very badly in Bangladesh. These politicians used religion for their own political gains, for their own interests.

The use of muscle power is also not new in elections. Muscle power is crucial in determining the outcome of voting. Muscle power can drive away the campaign workers from the field. There are stories where active workers were threatened out of their constituencies and could return home only after the election. In politics, the power of money has assumed an unprecedented level of importance. First and foremost, money is required to build and maintain the muscle power. Vigilantism against women accused of moral transgressions occurred in rural areas, often under a fatwa, and included punishments such as whipping. Politicians hardly care about this fact in Bangladesh.

As far as reform is concerned, proper means--what we called the good beginnings--are as necessary as worthy ends. We may not bear to be told to wait for good results, but we pine for good beginnings. And the political leaders have to bring a change in their mindsets and actions too. #

First published on October 16, 2008, New York

Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York. He could be reached at: