Bangladesh’s politics is controlled by the forces of capitalism, which is also the reason why leftist politics is still outside the “mainstream” of power structure. The rich and powerful, the venal representatives of the Bangladeshi bourgeoisie, dictate politics and control the media. Their ascent to, and hold on, power is predicated on the suppression of dissent, while people’s fight for their rights gets lost in the urgency to pursue their more immediate needs for food, shelter and so on. Besides, it seeks to deflect attention away from the bigger picture, the more pressing issues affecting people’s life. It manipulates opinion to support its own agenda. One outcome of the continuation of this system is that the socialists are left with a shrinking space.
Socialist politics is guided by the common good while bourgeois politics seeks to further profits. While the former is driven by social interests, the latter, consumed by greed, pursues only personal interests. But a superior moral position alone cannot bring success; for a successful movement, one needs intellectual superiority (precise, actionable knowledge which recognises the nuances of local history, culture, people’s aspirations as well as issues and challenges facing that society and the state.) as well. The Leftist movement in Bangladesh has failed on this front. It failed to understand the contemporary socio-political dynamics. Despite being a driving force behind all democratic movements of the country, the Left failed to lead them, allowing the bourgeoisie to be the leader instead.
Election is a central feature of parliamentary democracy, and for it to express the will of the electorate, it must be held in a free and credible manner. The responsibility to ensure the credibility of an election is primarily the government’s—for two reasons: first, the government has absolute authority in the affairs of the state and naturally holds sway over the Election Commission which it forms. So it can’t skirt its responsibility to ensure that all parties can campaign for voter support without running into impediments at every corner, and that all voters can vote without fear or intimidation.
Secondly, the ruling party is contesting the election, too. This makes it extremely important that there is no discrimination of any sort in the electoral process. The opposition candidates have a right to be not discriminated against or treated unfairly, otherwise those elected will have a big question mark hovering over their legitimacy post-election. The trust deficit will also weaken them internally. We also need to keep in mind that accountability is the most important element of democracy, and there will be no accountability if a fair election is not held. Above all, there might be an outbreak of chaos and unrest if the people are deprived of their right to select their own representatives.
The two major parties, bourgeois as they are, cannot reach a durable political consensus because they both hanker after money and power, a toxic mix that keeps them in a perpetual state of war. The two major coalitions have been formed around these two parties. The main reason for their forming the coalitions is that they have neither the moral authority nor enough public support to assist an independent bid in elections. Hence the effort to rope in smaller parties who would be content with a few seats, leaving them with the bigger slice of the pie. The smaller parties, on the other hand, happily play along because they know that, alone and unaided, they don’t stand a chance. Their union is not one of ideologies but one born purely of material interests.
In the foreseeable future, the bourgeoisie will continue to be the political mainstream although their politics will turn more fractious and violent. In fact, the bourgeoisie worldwide are more bigoted and abusive today than ever before, their politics dangerously bordering on fascism. Bangladesh’s bourgeois politics will be no different. It might see a further decline in quality as the years roll in.
In all, people are doomed to defeat whichever way the election turns. They lost before and will lose again. It is because they have no party of their own. The winners, whichever party or coalition they belong to, will inevitably be individuals who: 1) have money; 2) are driven by the principles of capitalism; and 3) are members of a large party. Money is their chief weapon and source of sustenance. Without money, one cannot even get the nomination of a major party, let alone win should you choose to contest independently. Those investing in the election business will naturally want to optimise returns on their investment. But this money is not theirs. They are taking it from people whose labour runs the engine of economy and who are just as well entitled to its benefits but hardly ever get any. After the election, these very individuals now seeking election will ditch their people and may even turn against them, if need be, for their own benefits.