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22nd-Mar-2015

BNP's participation to mayoral elections may be a game changer

By Editorial Desk

News report said BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia is positive towards taking part in mayoral election to the three city corporations' election-two in divided Dhaka city and one in port city of Chittagong, if the necessary environment is created for that. Leaders of the 'Peshajibi Forum'- a pro-BNP platform of professionals made the disclosure after they met the party chief on Friday evening.
The report also hinted at the possibility that if the BNP-led opposition decides to endorse the party men to contest the non-partisan election, it may essentially lead to a change in the strategy of the opposition movement apparently briefly sidetracking violent programmes. The opposition is now enforcing countrywide blockade and hartals in demand for a free and fair parliamentary election in which scores of people are dying in violence and public and private properties destroyed all over the country.
BNP standing committee member Lt Gen Mahbubur Rahman meanwhile said their party would soon take the decision about the election, He said most party men think they should not leave the field open to ruling Awami League without challenge. It will expose Awami League's politics. He said differences still at work within the party, as many opposing the participation think BNP should not join the mayoral elections as most of their prospective candidates and leaders are in jail in false cases or keeing away from publice view. He said his party would join the polls to avoid its further isolation and demonstrate popularity. It may also make an exit route from the ongoing indefinite movement for parliamentary election, Rahman said.  
But many BNP leaders held the view that they cannot expect that the mayoral polls will be free and fair. Awami League will not be willing to give assurance about anything of a fair poll nor make any concession thereof.  
People however held the view that if the government wants to make an exit from the present political impasse and hostilities, as Gen. Mahbub has pointed out, the election may indeed give the turn around for the better. The ball is in the government court to roll it either towards a game changer giving the democratic space to the opposition to run election campaign.
The other way is that the government may be using it to divert people's attention for the time being from ongoing political violence and chaos to a new political situation dominated by mayoral election. It may bring it a small respite.  
   Most people now believe that the Election Commission (EC) may make the mayoral election free and fair by ensuring a neutral role. Since these elections are local government elections and not national election, the EC may use its power and independence more easily to hold the expectations of the people and ensure the nation that free and fair elections are possible in the country.
But there is a growing perception in the people that the ruling party may have announced the sudden mayoral elections to take all those city governments under its direct political control to drastically control politics in those cities.
The misgivings about the government intention is almost open in the light of the recent removal of elected mayors of Sylhet, Hobigonj and Gazipur cities on charges of their involvement in political violence. A similar move is also on way to remove mayors of Barisal and Rajshahi cities on similar grounds.
It raises question even if the opposition wins in Dhaka and Chittagong city mayoral elections, whether or not their men will be able to continue in office.
We fear, that in fact it is not the right time and the environment for the mayoral election and yet they believe it may be harbinger for change. But any attempt to misuse the occasion may rather add more fuel to fire in national politics.