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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Create Level Playing Field for Candidates for Change in Bangladesh


WHEN WE talk about electoral democracy we would be talking about democratic practices involved in a democratic election. Included within the framework are the fundamental political values, i.e. democracy, democratic practices & democratic Institutions, the rule of law, fundamental human rights and a just & honest electoral organisation. Like other organisations established in a democracy, the electoral organisation entrusted with the power to conduct elections should completely be committed to democracy and have the will to actively promote democratic ethics.

What we see from our present political scenario? The Awami League president had alleged a conspiracy was being hatched against the December 18 parliamentary polls and said the national elections must be held on the day for transition to democracy. National elections must be held on December 18 for transition to democracy and her party want acceptable elections in a free and fair manner which will be contested by all political parties. The Awami League president stressed the need for the establishment of an effective post-election parliament through which both the elected government and the opposition will play a positive role in running the country. On the other side, the Chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) expressed her concerns that the government has failed to create a promised level-playing field for all parties to contest the election, while the election commission seems favouring a certain group to clinch power. Analysts have said the participation of both major parties is crucial to ensure peaceful voting and a smooth return to democracy after nearly two years of rule by an army-backed interim government.

It is very important that the elections should be held in keeping with the schedule on December 18 for a democratically elected government which will, in fact, reflect the wishes of the people, a foreign diplomat said. He thinks that is a vision for the future that my sense is shared by everybody in this country. Asked about the BNP’s unwillingness to contest the elections, he said the BNP must make the decision on the matter. But from his perspective as a high commissioner of a country, he has very much hope that they will have the widest possible participation in this election. Other foreign diplomats hoped that all political parties will be able to participate in the election to compete in a free and fair manner to democratically elect a government. About the BNP’s allegation of absence of a level playing field for fair polls, one foreign diplomat said it is the matter of the caretaker government to discuss with all political parties and expressed that of course, everyone in this country wants to see free and fair elections and all political parties have equal opportunities to participate and campaign for the elections

Democratic ethics have ideally been outlined by the various international conventions. The adoptions of some of the fundamental elements found in the guidelines would help to establish some kind of electoral standard which enjoys not only the broad support of the people but also most importantly the attainment of a standard that is internationally recognised. To determine where exactly we are with international standard, we would have to examine the legal framework governing democratic elections in the country. There is no ‘best’ electoral system suitable to all and no universally recognised standard attached to any one of them. The choice of electoral system needs to be made with desired goals in mind. It must be understood by all that the effect which different kinds of electoral system can promote are ultimately contextual and depend on the specific cleavages and divisions within any given society.

Choosing an electoral system is one of the most important institutional decisions for any democracy. An electoral system can help to “engineer” specific outcomes such as encouraging co-operation and accommodation in a divided society, a point very much relevant to independent Bangladesh in its infant stage by which cleavages and divisions are reduced significantly through co-operation and accommodation among the society divided with race, religion, culture as well as geopolitical environment at that particular point of time. The International Handbook on electoral system specifically mentioned that in the choice of an electoral system an important consideration is whether a country is sharply divided along political, religious, ethnic or other lines and whether minorities are, in the process, going to be properly and equitably represented in the political system.

The choice of the electoral system within the context of a particular country can make a significant positive or negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the various political contenders. As far as we are concerned the simple system chosen had seen the negative impact on parties which failed to gain popularity (in term of seats obtained) and had even disappeared from the political scene. On the other hand there are parties whose leaders have been far sighted enough to undertake policy of accommodation and co-operation and had continued to gain seats (and power) devoid of any prospect of being wiped out of the political scene at all. In spite of these difficulties the EC has been in complete control and has done very well in vital areas pertaining to the actual electoral conduct and process, e.g. Nomination, Poll, the Count and the pronouncement of results. Complete transparency has been achieved in those areas even though in carrying out those functions the EC has to rely on the honesty and impartiality of government officials. In general government officials, in terms of accountability, owe their loyalty to the government of the day.

Earning the confidence of the people is considered the most challenging task for the Commission. So far so good. For the past general elections we have managed to earn that credit. On the other hand it is also a completely challenging task for the Commission to earn and maintain the confidence of the opposition parties especially when all the time they harbour a sense of complete distrust for the government and collaterally for the Commission. Ironically what ever the Commission does has always’ been quaintly seen as working towards maintaining favourable conditions for the government and of course for the present caretaker government in power. What is considered completely fair sometimes are pronounced as unfair and the built-in advantages enjoyed by the party in power and a complete manipulation of those advantages would during critical time completely wipe out any shred of confidence they may have over the whole system and the agency in charge.

When we talk about election management with international standards, it is important that the legal framework on election should be so structured as to be unambiguous, understandable, transparent and should address all components of an electoral system necessary to ensure democratic election. What is really important to our nation is the necessary components in the law which will enhance the credibility of and public confidence in the elections. The legitimacy of the government established under the system should not at all be subject to any form of post election outcry and examinations.How does a member of the public view somebody's’ statement which says that determining the mode of campaign as none of the EC’s business. What exactly are we expected to do during the time when with the conduct of a democratic election, democratic rules appear to indicate that freedom to campaign can be considered the most important element in the election process. Which other ways can EC earn the confidence of the people other than being judged on our performance in the conduct of a free and fair election.

I believe that all aspects of the electoral Commissions’ establishment, composition, status and functions are relevant to the question of transparency in the electoral process. In term of the International standards and guideline, the legal framework should require that the Commission be established and should operate in a manner that ensures the independent and impartial administration of elections.As for the electoral management system we are quite close to the internationally recognised electoral standards. In Bangladesh the legal framework on election will provide the important elements for the establishment a strong electoral management process and mechanism but yet the overall framework clearly does not provide sufficient rooms for the Commission to manoeuvre and place itself completely in a commanding position to set up a completely level playing field during the election period.

When we talk about election management with international standards, it is important that the legal framework on election should be so structured as to be unambiguous, understandable, transparent and should address all components of an electoral system necessary to ensure democratic election. How does a member of the public view somebody's’ statement which says that determining the mode of campaign as none of the EC’s business. What exactly are we expected to do during the time when in terms of the conduct of a democratic election, democratic rules appear to indicate that freedom to campaign can be considered the most important element in the election process. Which other ways can we earn the confidence of the people other than being judged on our performance in the conduct of a free and fair election.

When we talk about democratic electoral process, we always hear people mentioning about the need for a level playing field. The expression “level playing field, according to electoral guidelines required the fair application of the following to all political parties.

• All rules and regulations
• Freedom to campaign by all means available (Democratic electoral campaign)
• Access to the state owned media to explain program to electorate
• Free to consult the election management team (Access to Electoral Commission)
• Can participate, where necessary, in election preparatory process, or
• Can participate in observing that all procedures are being properly applied.

Level playing field is a necessary ingredient of a free and fair election although no one with enough experience in the conduct of election will ever subscribe to the view that an absolute equality can be achieved between the contending parties.

Built in advantages enjoyed by the party in power in Bangladesh are many, including the right to call the shots, publicity over policy announcements and most of other public related exposures, including the support the ruling party may enjoy from a large number of privately owned media bodies which consider as being the major obstacles to the establishment of a playing field considered level in our election

Election is a festival of democracy. It fosters an inclusive state, democracy rooted in popular sovereignty and sustainable peace and tests the competitive strength of political parties and leaders through program and ideologies. In this context, it is important for the Nepalese press to keep the hope of citizens alive and kicking by serving key roles in democratic initiatives, democratic consolidation, democratic expansion and democratic deepening. Truly independent press spreads democratic ideology and plays an important role in the maintenance of the democratic system. It signifies a program of public rationality and a voice of the voiceless.

Since print and electronic media are the prime channels of transmitting electoral messages, politics in Bangladesh will be played out increasingly in communicative space. Press can contribute to ease the nation's transition process by creating election-friendly environment, democratising the public sphere and legitimising political initiatives. In Bangladesh, politicians talk more to the press than among themselves. It is the press that shapes their overall cognitive understanding about politics. A strong identification of citizens with political parties steered by the press provides greater motivation to vote and engage in politics. But, party is only a part of society, not the whole. Press can play an important role to make democracy for everybody by reaching to even the passive and alienated populace and sensitising them on public questions. By providing critical information responsible press nurtures an informed society capable of making vital choices in the election process and contributing towards the emancipatory potential of rationality embodied in participatory democracy. #

Gopal Sengupta is a freelance writer based in Canada who can be reached at:


  1. Undoubtedly very justified writing. Please keep it up.....


    Dear Sir,
    From 1972 after independent, Bangladesh Nationals started to establish Industries investing family resources ,using Innovative Technology as self earner to achieve Economic Freedom & to create jobs for millions of unemployed when almost everything was damaged due to Liberation War and These Entrepreneurs are commonly know as 1st ( first ) Generation Industrial Entrepreneur of Bangladesh
    Government also started to help these fast growing PRIVATE SECTOR INDUSTRIES AS IMPORT SUBSITUTES and for EXPORT having fund from International Loan Giving Agencies which were distributed through different Banks from 1979
    Unfortunately the Owners of these Industries became helpless victims of deep rooted conspiracy and Anti Propaganda. The Bank officials refrain themselves from ascertaining production capacity of imported machineries and to provide required working capital loan in time extending non-cooperation harassment, negligence and fraudulent activities. And all these have been done willingly just to jeopardize the Government Industrial policy as well to terrorize the Owners of Industries of Private Sector finally to occupy the Mortgage Properties of the owner of the Industries under Private Sector.
    Due to such activities Hundreds and Thousands of Industries were destroyed by Bank Officials and Policy Maker.
    Over and above capitalizing the Illiteracy, Ignorance and Extreme Poverty of Bangladesh Citizens .Most of these laws were forced upon the Citizen including, Owner of the Industries of Private Sector in co-operation with their alliances who are busy to convert Bangladesh a Bottom less Basket Again
    Due to such activities most of the Industries have became in-operatives and have lost their Cash Capitals, Expatriate Capabilities and became helpless victims of oppressive laws. Due to absence of minimum accountability from Banking Sector to the office of Land Survey Departments / Directorate.

    In 1992 & 1996 Government of Bangladesh identified and registered many Industries as SICK INDUSTRIES declaring not as Defaulter of Bank Loan but victims of Violation of Contract , Negligence , Fraudulent or Malpractices of Bank Officials. And Policy Maker due to Lack of Accountability. And the matter of Lack of Accountability at every stage of Bangladesh is no more a hidden Matter.
    THE HELPLESS OWNERS OF INDUSTRIES ARE LOOKING FOR JUSTICE, BUT THE DOOR OF JUSTICE ARE CLOSED Due to Enactment of a Law Know as ARTHA RIN ADALAT ACT ( Bank Loan Recovery Act ) on 1989 which were also amended on 2003 and 2007 . Bank Ruptcy Acts were also enacted on 1997 treating the Owners of Industries under Private Sector like as Slave of Colonial Period WHEN THE HANDS OF THE PRODUCER AND TECHNICIAN OF MOSLIN FABRICS ( which were only produced in Bengal of undivided INDIA) were cut down to stop production of Finest Fabrics by Bengali Technicians and Producer.

    But surprisingly the ARTHA RIN ACT are not applicable for Nationalized or State Sector .where BILLIONS OF DOLLARS are spend till today without any accountability.
    Out of Total of outstanding defaulted Bank Loans, about 60 to 70 % are lying with Nationalized / State Sector and less then 10 % are lying with Small and Medium sized Industries of Private Sector of Bangladesh. And Bank Official can explain well about the remaining of the Loan Amount.

    Due to which BANGLADESH HAS BECOME A HEAVEN FOR REPRESSION / EXPLOITATION Forcing the process to increase Poverty line in Geometric Ration & also helping the process of Lawlessness and Human Trafficking .
    The Owners of Industries of Private Sector can not claim any set - off or compensation on the same suit as filed by BANK OFFICIALS or THE LOAN GIVING AGENCIES for Loan Recovery under Artha.Rin Act . for VIOLATION OF CONTRACT , NEGLEGENCES , Malpractices of Bank officials / Policy Maker.
    AS A RESULT NUMBER OF SICK / DISTRESSED INDUSTRIES are increasing in every year due to lack of accountability of Bank Officials and Policy Maker .
    BANK OFFICALS / LOAN GIVING AGENCIES HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TOTAL INDEMNITY OF LAW for violation of contract , negligence, Fraudulent Activities , . These have been done to hide out existing high profile malpractices and corruptions as per opinion of Expert Personals.

    The Owner of Industries of Private Sector have no Legal Right to protect themselves from the oppression of Bank Officials & Policy Maker and these are no more hidden matter ,rather a part of the on going conspiracy to make Bangladesh a Bottom Less Basket.
    Although in neighboring countries Like INDIA where there is LAW FOR LOAN RECOVERY KNOWN AS “ DEBT RECOVERY TRIBUNALS ( DRT )” where the Owner of Industries or other borrowers are allowed to claim Set off or Compensation in same suit and same court at same time.
    But in BANGLADESH Owner of Industries or Other Borrowers of Bank Money are completely deprived of any such opportunity rather provision have been to hide out corruption , negligence, fraudulent activities of Bank Officials as per opinion of Expert Personals giving TOTAL INDEMNITY OR LICIENCE FOR UNENDING CORRUPTION OR MAL PRACTICES & Violation of Contracts & negligence .,
    And Owner of Industries or Borrowers of Bank loans are completely deprived of any type of JUSCTICE. Common people are also facing another type of repression UNDER CERTIFICATE CASE for realization of Government Taxes . small loan of farmers , weavers etc ,
    Industrial Entrepreneurs can only file a separate suit for compensation in a separate Civil Court which will be a matter of life long litigation .with no result .
    As per Artha Rin Act nothing can be raised against the Order or Decree of Artha Rin Court to Higher Court and also without Payment of 50 % of the suit value or Decretal Amount,
    The door of appeal or revision are closed denying the Legal right of Owners of Industries. As per Sections 12, 12 ( kha) , 18(2) & (3) , 19, 20,21,33, 34,40,41,42,44, 47 and 50 of Artha Rin Act.
    There are no other alternative way , but to draw the attention of concern Authority of Bangladesh Government including PATRIOT INTELLECTUAL PERSONS, POLITICIAN AND LEADER OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO VERYFY the above and help for restoring EQUAL RIGHT for JUSTICE . and to help to Protect the Owner of Industries including Workers and Staffs of Industries who are already in Distressed Condition due to lapses of Policy Maker an Bank Officials and of the Oppressive Laws .
    And to help to restore the accountability in all organizations including BANKS & other Loan Giving Agencies for the greater Interest of Nations please Circulate our humble appeal among Honorable Members , Partners of your organizations or in your News Bulletins and in Printed or Electronic News Media for Transmission this appeal among all organizations working for HUMAN RIGHT , DEMOCRATIC RIGHT and to PREVENT LEGAL ABUSE and OPPRESSIVE LAWS and also to consider the followings :

    1-. Humble Appeal before the Government of Bangladesh to allow Owners of Industries to claim SET OFF or COMPENSATIONS for Negligence , Violation of Contract , Fraudulent or Malice Activities in the same suit filed by Bank or loan giving agencies for recovery of Loan Money similar to DRT ( DEBT RECOVERY TRIBUNALS ) OF INDIA

    2- Considering the heavy Loss / Damages of Government Registered & Identified SICK INDUSTRIES of 1992 & 1996 of Private Sector may be allowed 100 % weaver closing all Pending Suits for recovery of Loan unconditionally .

    3- The Existing System of Mortgage of Landed Properties .for getting Loan need to be completely abolished .to remove ever growing corruption , malpractices and fraudulent Activities which exist in Banking Sector and are much Proven Facts for the greater interest. of the Nation .
    4- All pending Suits in Atrha Rin Court may kindly be transferred to Civil Commercial Court abolishing Sections 12, 12( kha) , 18(2) & 18(3), 19,20,21,33, 34,40,41,42,44,47 and 50 of Artha Rin Acts including Sections 28 ( Kha) of Banking Company Act Creating Democratic Opportunities similar to DEBT RECOVERY TRIBUNAL S ( DRT ) of INDIA for the end of JUSTICE ..
    5- And to take immediate steps to abolish the system of CERTIFICASE CASE which are nothing but abuse of LAW and worst one like that of COLONIAL RULE .

    6- It is also necessary or imperative with the change of time to omit or abolish ARTICLE NO - 47 and Article No - 144 of BANGLADESH CONSTITUTION as both are conflicting to the DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM and FREE ECONOMY CONCEPT .

    Suffering Groups of Owners of Industries of Bangladesh.