There was not another country in the world on Sunday that could have stood in so unsplendid an isolation as did Bangladesh. The world bore witness to an election that was boycotted by the Opposition, to at least 100 polling stations going up in flames, and booths without voters. Well and truly has the political class, most particularly the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, crafted the obituary of democracy. It would be less than fair to aver that the UN failed in its mission to play the honest broker; nearer the truth is the reality that the delegation wasn’t allowed to function, indeed to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. There was a blunt message in the refusal of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the USA to send observers; in real terms, the international entities refused to be part of the mortal exercise in self-deception.
In terms of electoral probity ~ a quality that lies rather thin on the ground ~ Begum Hasina&’s victory means little or nothing, just as an uncontested election is almost institutionalised nonsense. The numbers, therefore, are no less irrelevant ~ 147 seats for the Awami League in a 300-member parliament. On the face of it, the Prime Minister for all seasons has had her way with her refusal to install a neutral caretaker government, on the terms set by Begum Khaleda. Thus was she able to score brownie points in the short term ~ a spurious victory that is being greeted by violence, killings and strikes each day. That tragedy of the electoral system deepened on Sunday with the death of 21 people in course of a thoroughly meaningless election.
In her hour of contrived triumph, Hasina has inflicted a self-inflicted wound that shall not be easy to bandage. It isn’t merely the brittle structure of governance that will be cause of international concern; as the scion of the family that brought the country freedom, her credibility as a political leader, as indeed that of the Awami League, is in tatters ~ a cruel irony if ever there was one.
Sad to reflect that on its eastern flank, India will have to deal with a neighbour whose claim to power is based on a travesty of any country&’s tryst with democracy. A single-party election has made the deception complete. Yes, there will be enough MPs for parliament to swear in Sheikh Hasina as PM; but the pre-determined result is bound to lack legitimacy at home and abroad. A fresh election, chiefly to gain international credibility, is easier suggested than effected. The sad reality is that politics is much too dysfunctional in Bangladesh today. And as in Pakistan, the military can always play a spoilsport game. Mud flies almost everywhere in the subcontinent.
Well ‘urned’ Oz
It must register as a classic comeback. After being outplayed in the English summer and a mediocre track record before that, few had predicted the capacity of Michael Clarke&’s squad to turn things around, even at home. His leadership was doubted, the void created by the departure of Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey was still lamented. And the ability of Mitchell Johnson to serve as a spearhead was still questionable. Hence the wresting of the cherished urn containing the sacred “Ashes” and stamping of authority with a five-zero win by a virtually unchanged side translated into scripting a chapter as forceful as any in cricketing lore. That too despite batting inconsistencies: sure there were several brilliant individual performances, but with the possible exception of Brad Haddin there was no “Mr Reliable”, and there were several occasions when it appeared the Poms would be regaining the initiative they enjoyed when the sun was blazing in the northern hemisphere.
It was then that the Aussies rediscovered the grit that had earned them that never-say-die reputation. It was no surprise that after the “whitewash” was completed at Sydney many a comparison was drawn with an amateur boxing contest ~ the referee stepping-in to prevent the obvious loser from suffering further punishment. To single out members of a victorious combination would be to detract from the overall effect of many a fine individual showing, yet the apparent manner in which Johnson filled the boots of MacGrath, McDermott ~ and perhaps even Lillee or “Thommo” must register high on the appreciation-scale.
England took many a reputation with it ‘Down Under’, but Stuart Broad apart many a reputation came undone: Cook, Peitersen, Anderson and Bell failed to ring, Trott and Swann threw in the towel. That Andy Flower felt it necessary to turn, unsuccessfully, to some greenhorns to infuse a little fresh energy into the squad confirms a mental battering by what transpired in the field. Geoff Boycott contends that English batting cannot adapt to the different formats of the game, well there are some ODIs ahead in which he could be proved right ~ or wrong.
What needs no proving is that Cricket Australia struck gold when entrusting Darren Lehmann with the “defeat-into-victory” mission. From the day he took over there was some fire back in the Aussie breath: differences with Shane Watson and “difficulties” with David Warner were ironed out, Bailey and Steve Smith came good and Haddin was back where he belonged. Whether by wielding magic wand or big stick, bringing the best out of players calls for something special: Lehman could well wind up being bracketed with Sir Alex Ferguson.