Election challenges for the ruling party
Dr. A J M Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan writes for DOT :
Gradually the country is being absorbed by the election fever. Tea-stalls across the country are abuzz with debates and discussions about the strength and weaknesses of the potential candidates and their parties. Political parties are busy with finalizing candidates for the constituencies. Although many parties and alliances are on the field, the election is going to be fought between the Awami League and the BNP. The goal of Awami League is to secure the mandate of people for another five-year term to finish the ongoing development projects while the BNP’s goal is to return to power after a decade.Fortune will smile on the BNP, if the Awami League falters on the challenges it faces.
The biggest challenge for the Awami League is to select candidates and negotiate seats with its allies. The AwamiLeague as the largest party and the party in power has ministers and running MPs who want to hold onto their seats alongside many aspirants to run in the election on its ticket. This timethe AwamiLeaguemay have to allocate more seats for its allies than before. After setting aside the seats for the allies, it has to accommodate its party workers. Who will get Awami League nominations? Will it repeat all the candidates which it fielded in the 2014 election? No, it cannot. Unlike in 2014, the election this year is poised to be highly contested. Every MP and the minister did not perform equally. Some recorded excellent performance while some did poorly. Some remained isolated from people while some earned bad names for themselves and for the party.
The Awami League has to deny nominations to the poorly performed and unpopular candidates.Itseems like an uphill task. It adopted a scientific approach to selecting candidates by relying on public opinion polls. Should the polls be conducted objectively it will give a clear idea about the nomination seekers. However, if the samples are biased and interviews are based on leading questions, the surveys will give bias results. After the selection of the candidates, the biggest challenge will be to contain the contestants. Will the aspirants who did not get the nomination accept the decision of the nomination board and work for the party-nominated candidates? Some will accept the decision and stand behind the party candidates while some may defy the decision and run as independent candidates or work against the party’s nominated candidates. The magnitude of this phenomenon will have an effect onAwamiLeague’s possibility to earn another term.
The anti-incumbency factor poses the second challenge. The Awami League has been in power for the last two consecutive terms. Everywhere in the worldpeople harbor a critical stance toward the ruling party and show a tendency to seek change. In countries like ours, ordinary people expect many things from the government and blame the government for every mishap. The behavior of the ruling party activists and leaders in different constituencies acts as a catalyst. When people are annoyed with a party’s activists and leaders, they choose the election time to punish them by voting against their party.
The tricks and strategies of the BNP and Jamaat amount to be the third challenge for the Awami League. This timethe BNP has been able to hide its alliance with the Jamaat to some extent by having Dr. Kamal and others at the forefront. It has devised to major strategies to win the election or gain maximum out of it. First, it has been keeping the election commission and the government under pressure by demanding a level playing field for all the political alliances contesting the election for a fair election. They keep bringing up allegations of biases against the election commission and the law enforcement agencies to undermine the credibility of these organizations and gain voters’ sympathy. The other strategy the BNP has deployed is to undermine the government’s achievements in socio-economic development. It claims that itwould be able to do more if it was in power for two consecutive terms.
The final challenge for the ruling party is to woo the young and educated unemployed voters. The government created many jobs but the number of job seekers surpassed that. What else the ruling party should do to address the unemployment problem? It has to be delineated.
Will the Awami League be able to overcome these hurdles to stay in power? It will not be impossible but difficult. It has to field the right candidates and contain the competitors and engage them in favor of the nominated candidates. It has to present a comparison between the performance of its government and the performance of the BNP-Jamaat government during 2001-2006 to show that it is more capable to bring prosperity to the country and solve the unemployment problem. It has to convince people why they should get another term.
Finally, the election commission and the law enforcement agencies must not allow the BNP and its alliance to gain public sympathy by their poor handling of the election issues and immature actions.
The writer is Professor and Founder Chair of the Department of Television, Film, and Photography at the University of Dhaka and Executive Director of the Governance and Policy Research Foundation, an independent think tank.