Election is the responsibility of both the ruling and opposition political parties. They all should, therefore, help in the holding of fair and credible general elections, social welfare minister Rashed Khan Menon, president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh which is a partner in the Awami League-led alliance, tells Moloy Saha in an interview with New Age
New Age: What is the principal crisis of democracy in Bangladesh?
Rashed Khan Menon: The principal crisis of democracy in Bangladesh is the lack of confidence among the political parties and mistrust between parties.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main political opposition, at the moment is responsible for this as it fears tough competition ahead. In politics, one party will defeat another. Now one political party has become an enemy to another.
On August 21, 2014, when BNP was in power they tried to kill Awami League president Sheikh Hasina and others central leader of the party in a grenade attack at Banglabandhu Avenue. Moreover, in the past some political parties were in power with the blessings of military. They came to power first, and then they formed new political parties to remain in power.
New Age: Do you think that the next general elections are going to be inclusive, with all political parties actively taking part? What are the prime conditions for making elections inclusive?
Rashed Khan Menon: As far as my understanding is, the next general elections will be a participatory one.
The election would not be like the one held in January 5, in 2014. Many political parties would participate in it and BNP would participate in it in any form. Either the whole party would participate in the elections or it would participate in factions.
Whether the elections would be inclusive or not that is depended on the decisions of the parties, the parties will decide in what way and to what extent they will participate.
New Age: Do you think that there would be a violence-free environment in and around polling stations, enabling voters to exercise their right to franchise freely? What are the conditions to create a congenial political atmosphere in which people would feel free to vote for candidates of their choice?
Rashed Khan Menon: The political states of affairs, as it is today, do not indicate that the country will experience major confrontational situation before or during the next general election.
Moreover, the election time government, the Election Commission and the law enforcement agencies would take steps for holding the election in peaceful manner. The voters are waiting to cast their votes for their chosen candidates peacefully.
New Age: Elections are, indeed, primary conditions for democracy. What, in your view, are the other factors that make democratic practice meaningful?
Rashed Khan Menon: Elections are indeed the primary pre-condition for democracy and it is the responsibility of both ruling and opposition political parties to ensure elections. Therefore, they all should help holding a fair and credible general election.
The government should ensure the freedom of speech and allow that all opposition political parties can hold rallies and processions.
Now media became vibrant in our country and the social media has also flourished, therefore, it is not possible for anyone to hide anything from the public after manipulating the election.
New Age: Bangladesh’s constitution allows ‘electoral autocracy’ in that it provides the scope for a single person to head the state’s executive as well as legislative branches, leaving scope to influence the judiciary. Don’t you think that just credible elections are not enough, under such constitutional regime, to move towards democratic governance?
Rashed Khan Menon: The constitution had provided all sorts of executive power in the hands of the prime minister. The parliamentary democracy had ensured it and the president had little scopes to handle power. To bring balance of power, between president and the prime minister, the power of the president should be increased so that president could intervene in the activities of the government.
New Age: What kind of constitutional reforms would you propose to democratise the state’s constitution and governance?
Rashed Khan Menon: We are demanding some constitutional reforms to make the constitution more pro-people. The Article 70 of the constitution should be changed — it could be dropped or should be revised.
New Age: Successive governments — elected, half-elected or unelected — have always been busy making all kinds of efforts, legal and extralegal, to make people accountable to the state and the government. How could the state and the governments be made accountable to people?
Rashed Khan Menon: For increasing accountability of the government the parliament should be strengthened and functional. Moreover, the proportionate representation system of voting should be introduced and there should be ways for people to avail justice avoiding bureaucratic hurdles.
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