The Awami League led ‘Grand Alliance’ has swept back into power in a stunning landslide victory. The elections were conducted peacefully, with massive turnouts with more young people and women voting in unprecedented numbers. This is a massive vote of confidence for secularism, patriotism without nationalism and a rejection of Islamist religious supremacism.
Bangladesh is set for a government with the biggest parliamentary majority since 1973, following Mondayâ€™s general elections designed to bring an end to two years of military-backed rule.
In an election marked by high turnout and few incidents, the centre-left Awami League – headed by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina – and its allies pulled off a stunning victory, winning a two-thirds majority in the single-chamber national assembly.
Says Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star newspaper:
“First-time voters made up nearly a third of the total, and these young voters rejected the BNPâ€™s negative campaign based on religion and fear.”
The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) under Begum Khaleda Zia, has been consigned to the political wilderness, along with its negative campaign of religious fear mongering (“Vote for BNP and save Islam”).
The biggest losers has been the Jamaat-e-Islam and its brand of clerical fascism. If this election result tells us anything, it shows Bangladeshi’s rejection of Islamist radicalism and hopefully putting an end to the growth of Islamist politics into the public sphere, which has resulted in the targetting of artists, women’s rights and religious and ethnic minorites. But with more women turning out to vote than men, I am not surprised.
Fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami (JI), a crucial ally of former premier Khaleda Ziaâ€™s BNP-led four-party alliance, on Tuesday suffered a drubbing with all party stalwarts biting the dust in the general elections.
JI, which opposed the Bangladeshâ€™s 1971 independence war and sided with the Pakistani troops, won only two seats in the 300-member parliament compared to 20 in the last polls in 2001, while its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid conceded defeat.
â€œThe anti-liberation forces have been defeated once again, this time through peoplesâ€™ verdict,â€ the Daily Star commented in a report titled â€˜Jamaat in jeopardyâ€™.
â€œWhile it is a sweet revenge for Bangladeshis against the war criminals, the verdict will make stronger the demand for their trial.â€
Most political analysts attributed JIâ€™s debacle on the intensified campaign for the trial of 1971 war criminalsâ€™ launched by the Sector Commanders Forum, a grouping of veterans of the Liberation War, backed by India, as the country celebrated its 37th victory anniversary ahead of the polls on December 16.
Analysts said the campaign particularly influenced the young voters, 33 per cent of whom voting for the first time, as they spread the campaign for the trial of 1971 war criminals through cell phone messages and internets.
Nizami and Mojahid led the so-called elite Al-Badr forces in 1971 while the Gestapo like outfit is widely believed to have killed frontline intellectuals after abducting them in an effort to cripple the emerging nation intellectually just two days ahead of their defeat on December 16 in 1971.
What would I like Sheikh Hasina to do now:
- Reinstate the secular mandate back into the Constitution of Bangladesh
- Take the former war-criminals (including politicians Nizami and Mojahid amongst others) to the ICC to face a tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity and end this chapter that has divided the people and its culture once and for all
- End the culture of political nepotism and bring in fresh young blood into the party structure
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Filed in: Bangladesh