Friday, December 12, 2008

ELECTION 2008: gazing into the crystal ball.

… and they are off!

The JP-AL drama is over (at least this round); manajat at Shahjalal Mazaars are done; election manifesto has been announced on live TV; candidate lists finalised and CTG thrashed on Tritio Matra! The campaigns have started and in about 17 days we will have an election 26 months in the making.

Going into the elections I believe the conventional wisdom puts AL as the front-runner. But I have a different angle to this. BNP is not as weak as they are thought to be. Now that Ershad has decided to stay with the Mohajoth (a wise decision on his part) this election has boiled down to a head to head between AL vs. BNP. If we take the premise that a typical swing constituency in Bangladesh has about a 40% AL vote and the victory is secured by how the remaining 60% is divided, BNP is in a comfortable position indeed.

The Mohajoth deal will give JP, I calculate 10-15 extra seats. But I don’t think we can trust Ershad to be a man of his words. He will always be a joker in the pack and will horse-trade his MPs after the elections to find the best deal.

Another googly in the game is how rebel candidates will do in the polls. AL has got its fair share this time (usually not the case) as has BNP. End of the day these candidates will shape the outcome to a great degree.

As difficult as it might be, no armchair political analyst should get by without a prediction on the election outcome. So here is mine:

AL + allies (– JP) 120-130
JP 30-35
BNP + JI 135-145 (JI being about 15-20)
Bilakpa Dhara + allies 2
Independent + Others 7-10

And if I am right the next prediction I’d venture to make is that Ershad will jump ship after the election and support a Khaleda Zia cabinet in exchange for the Presidency.

But hope you’ll allow me to create one little caveat for myself. Till today Sylhet 1 constituency has been a bell weather seat. It has always elected the winner. This year two finance minister hopeful are in contention for that seat. Sylhet 1 map has been redrawn leaving the BNP favouring Companyganj out, resulting in a very tight race. Having visited there over the Eid holidays I tend to think that seat is leaning AL’s MA Muhit’s way. Only way Saifur Rahman can win it is if he pulls sympathy votes (being old and having a son in prison) by staying home and allowing his arch-rival Illiyas Ali to bring in the votes. (In exchange for vacating the seat to an Illiyas supporter in the by-elections)

This will no doubt be an interesting election to watch. There is going to be enough drama over the next few months to keep us all in business!