Awami League needs an attitude adjustment

Published on Sunday, October 30, 2016

Just a few days ago the most prestigious political party of the country and arguably one of the greatest political movement of the world "Bangladesh Awami League" celebrated new leadership for the next three years.

It is widely rumored that the infusion of new blood into the responsible leadership positions is still a genuine consideration which is refreshing as Bangladesh desperately need fresh ideas and a 360-degree shift from the existing political culture of hostility.

But in a country where free speech is off-limit, citizens are excluded from the political debate; politicians are bounded by the party line, and the oppositions are almost eradicated from the political scene. The question pertinent is how exactly those fresh ideas are going to be delivered?

If we were free to debate intensely between the two available political options, the obvious conclusion would be, that neither of the parties, in their current form, are actually qualified to inject the new ideas we desperately seek.

We are not blessed with a third alternative given the fact that the spineless-domesticated Jatiyo Party cannot be considered as a political option, and the leftists are totally out of touch, politically dysfunctional.

In such circumstances, examining and improving the current dynamics of our political conversation can be worth consideration.

The political conversation in Bangladesh is self-centered, extremely partisan in nature with a tendency of prioritizing the party line and political individuals over the greater good of the people.

We tend to make our policy positions based on political ideology rather than the merit of the issue even before the debate starts. Then we aggressively argue the moral superiority of the party, not the issue itself. We never show respect to the opponents or their views. We never genuinely dig deeper or seek insight.

Another similar concern is, supported by the partisan academics, many within the AL ranks often arrogantly argue that they have won the election with a vast majority and they can govern as they please.

But let me tell you something, majority support is not an automatic qualifier for a democratic government, nor does democratic principle allow the party to govern as it pleases. The popularity and majority support is completely irrelevant in this debate.

There is, actually, a term for the rules of the majority. It's called "majoritarianism" which is also defined as a form of tyranny because the wrongful use of the majority mandate often allow the many to override the rights of the few.

And this is a lesson the new leadership must learn, sadly, from the mistakes of their predecessors, that being consumed by self-centred partisan beliefs is an obstacle and it is the root cause of our current deficit of ideas.

Irrelevant to the parliamentary majority, democracy is and always will be the rule of many. Pluralism, diverse opinion, and cooperation between all stakeholders constitute the foundation of a functional democratic system.

Ordinary citizen voices are no less than the Awami League supporters, and Awami League is under an obligation to listen and to respect the opposing voices. It is not an act of kindness or good will gesture. This is an obligatory requirement which the party is yet to comply with.

Listening and respecting other opinions does not necessarily mean agreeing with them or adopting their policy. It is actually the key to finding better alternatives. Therefore, we must allow the critical voices to speak freely instead of oppressing them, and must not forget even for a minute that every citizen of the country deserves the right to be heard.

Our deficit of fresh ideas is a direct consequence of our democratic deficit. So long as we continue with the "deaf and dismissive" to opposing ideas attitude, we continue pushing our society backward.

It's been a while the powerful foreign lobbies are asking for compromise between the two parties. But compromise is not what we must seek. It changes nothing. All it does is allows the same old powerful individuals to gain more power. If we must, we should seek a change of attitude to turn the illiberal democracy into a liberal one.

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