Where do the floating and first-time voters stand?
With the 11th parliamentary elections over, we can safely conclude that it has been one of the more inclusive elections in years. However, the pre-polls signals coming out from Oikya Front high command seemed genuine.
Of course, it was good to see Oikya Front remain in the race until the end.
Voters in democratic nations usually have short memories -- the most important factors to them are satisfaction level and confidence in the electoral process, and the future expectations of the electorate.
In other words, election year “sweeteners” by the incumbent are very important factors in all democracies, allowing voters some sort of immediate gain -- say, tax cuts, infrastructure projects and so on.
It is indeed a common practice in almost all democratic nations nowadays to borrow each others’ policies in the election year, apparently, to make the voters confused.
For example, in a mature democracy like Australia, it has been witnessed that the incumbent accommodates (borrows?) the opposition’s popular policies, and that sometimes it is very difficult to make differences between the policies of both parties in areas such as education, migration, and the energy sector, for example.
Apropos of the above, where do the “floating” and first-time voters stand under these circumstances?
A floating voter is not a member of any political party and swaps positions in casting votes due mainly to their choice for a good candidate. It has been clear since 1991 that Bangladeshi voters do not like to give consecutive terms to any political party under a contested election process, unlike India.
Of course, the 10th parliamentary election was an exception.
The 14-party alliance led by the AL had no choice but to go for election due to the tantrums of the sizable opposition.
The nation has witnessed governments in place in three consecutive terms (1996, 2001, and 2008). Certainly, there was a break of this trend in 2014.
Naturally, it is the floating and first-time voters in the parliamentary elections who usually face a major dilemma once they enter the polling booth.
One, to many voters, the “incumbency” factor likely appeared much stronger.
Two, it was a major challenge for the Oikya Front to attract a specific section of the vote bank: Gen Y. The young generation, particularly first-time voters, have not seen any of the opposition’s political activity over the last five years.
Instead, they witnessed, immediately after the 10th parliamentary elections, how has the BNP-Jamaat alliance turned the entire nation into a hell hole.
Three, the obvious question of the average voter: “Is the Oikya Front ready to govern with a new size and shape of opposition leaders?”
Kamal Hossain and Fakhrul Islam look frail and it is not certain yet how long this leadership will last, given Kamal’s past records against Bangabandhu’s daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Let us say (for argument sake), that the Oikya Front crosses a line, it is now clear that Kamal Hossain would not get the top position and become PM since the BNP made it sure that majority party within Oikya Front parliamentary body would elect this position. In light of the above, Kamal Hossain has no chance which is now crystal clear.
The million-dollar question is: What exactly is it that Kamal, Rob, and others found in BNP that they would resort to disrupting the development momentum of the nation?
Under such circumstances, the floating and first-time voters had to think twice before voting for Oikya Front.
Bangladesh has come a long way since 1991. The first-time voters (in one estimate 25 million, the size of Australia) would ask if the Oikya Front and its leaders are ready to govern under a fragile unity and undermine all that progress.
To that end, it looks like the Oikya Front needs more time to land on its feet before they can even consider having any sort of political presence.
At this moment the nation needs stability and a stable government.
Moazzem Hossain is a contributor based in Brisbane, Australia.