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1 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Hopes high for inclusive elections in 2018

ABU JAKIR
Hopes high for inclusive elections in 2018

All the registered political parties of the country are revving up their organisational activities, raising hopes for free, fair and participatory national elections in late 2018 or early 2019. According to the constitutional requirements, the general elections must take place within the 90-day period before the expiry of the five-year tenure of the current Parliament. Hence, the countdown for the next election will begin from October 10, 2018.

The ruling Awami League leaders and sources within the government say that the next parliamentary elections will be held in the month of victory in the coming year. That is why 2018 is a very crucial year for the country and its people as well as for the political parties that are the main stakeholders in the elections.

Besides, 2018 is very crucial for another reason: a lot of debate and discussion is going on with respect to the upcoming national elections. Will the history of 2014 be repeated? Or will all the parties happily participate in this election?

The highly controversial 10th parliamentary elections were held on January 5, 2014, in which 153 candidates from the Awami League (AL) were elected unopposed, as another major political party—the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)—had boycotted

the polls.

BNP, the arch enemy of ruling AL, had not only boycotted the January 5 elections, but also organised a three-month violent programme in protest against the election.

After the much-talked-about January 5 elections, the Sheikh Hasina administration had said the 10th parliamentary elections were held for the constitutional continuation and an early election would be given before the schedule, as per the Constitution, but it did not do so. Now, in her latest press conference as the head of the government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ruled out any possibility of a snap poll being held.

In a media briefing held at her official residence Gana Bhaban, Sheikh Hasina—also the president of the AL—had said the next polls will be held on time even if the BNP boycotts the polls again. She had said her government

would not go beyond the country’s Constitution. As per the Constitution, the next general elections would be held under the incumbent government. But her arch rival—BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia—has repeatedly asserted that her party would not take part in polls held under PM Sheikh Hasina.

Under such circumstances, there are apprehensions among the country’s people as to whether the next parliamentary elections would be an inclusive one.

BNP sources, too, said they will unveil a proposal on the poll-time supportive government soon and send it to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, urging her to hold a dialogue on the issue.

The BNP says it has no confidence on the Election Commission in its ability to hold an impartial national election in 2018 under the incumbent government. Following the recently concluded city corporation polls in Rangpur, which was termed free and fair by all the parties including the BNP, party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said their party still has no confidence in the Election Commission as its formation process was wrong.

In a remake made this month, Mirza Fakhrul said the BNP will not give any undertaking over the polls and rather the government will be forced to hold an inclusive general election.

Putting the burden of holding an inclusive polls on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the BNP leader said, “It is her (PM) responsibility to create a congenial electoral atmosphere and ensure participation of all political parties in the election.”

“We have repeatedly been telling that we don’t want confrontation and political instability. We want peaceful transfer of power through an inclusive election. If prime minister is responsible for this then she would understand the people’s pulse,” he told a press briefing in Dhaka.

At a discussion in the capital on Saturday, the BNP secretary general also said their party is getting confident for various reasons about returning to power through the 11th parliamentary polls.

“We’ll surely join the polls along with our chairperson Khaleda Zia…2018 will be the year of Khaleda Zia, BNP, Tarique Rahman, and mass people as we’re with people,” he said.

 “We’ve been on a movement, and will carry it on in the days to come, and will definitely establish a pro-people government in 2018. We’re getting hopeful for various reasons.” Fakhrul said the government must arrange the next election under a non-party neutral administration to conduct it by an independent and impartial Election Commission with the participation of all parties. “The election will have to be fair and credible through which our leader Khaleda Zia will again be elected the Prime Minister.”

However, brushing aside such an “illegal” demand, ruling party leader say elections would be held as per the Constitution. All political parties, including the BNP, would have to participate in the polls going by the current Constitution as the Constitution does not have any provision for a poll-time supportive government, the party said.

AL insiders said no one would be able to foil the next general polls, adding that these will be held on time in line with the country’s Constitution, wherein an election-time government headed by the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will just do routine work during the election period.

AL sources also said they would not pay any heed to the BNP’s demand for a neutral poll-time administration to oversee the next polls, as they believe BNP has no alternative but to participate in that election. This is because if the party does not take part in the polls, its registration with the Election Commission (EC) will be cancelled this time.  

Talking to this correspondent, AL presidium member Mohammad Nasim last week said the next polls will be held in the month of victory in 2018 and the BNP will take part in the polls. He also called upon the BNP not to boycott the 11th parliamentary elections.

AL joint general secretary Abdur Rahman said the participation of the BNP in the next elections is not necessary. Under the Constitution, general elections will be held every five years, and, so, the next polls will be held on time even if they (the BNP) do not join the elections, he added.

AL organising secretary Barrister Muhibul Hassan Chowdhury (Nawfel) said they have no headache as to whether or not the BNP would join the next polls.

Meanwhile, the central leaders have issued directives to the member-activists of their respective parties to become more active in the field in preparation for the campaigns.

Even HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party, the ruling party’s close ally and also the main opposition in Parliament, formally announced the start of its campaign a few months ago.

Ershad has said his party is taking preparations to contest independently in the next election, terming Jatiya Party (JP) as a factor in the upcoming polls.

The position of the party was bolstered after its mayoral candidate Mostafizar Rahman Mostafa won the Rangpur City Corporation election by a huge margin, defeating Awami League and BNP contestants in an election termed free and fair by all quarters.

 “JP has become a political factor for the next polls, so all leading political parties want JP to include into its alliance,” Ershad told journalists at a press conference in Chittagong on Wednesday.

 Ershad, also special envoy to the Prime Minister, said Jatiya Party is now with the Awami League-led alliance, but he is unable to forecast about his party’s future political course.

AL sources said they started making elaborate preparations for the next general elections.

Along with various government organisations, a number of private organisations are conducting field surveys countrywide. The surveyors are questioning general voters to assess the popularity of the leaders, the possible outcome of the BNP’s participation in the polls, etc.

The secretary of Sujan (Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik or Citizens for Good Governance), a civil society organisation, Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, said a free and fair election is not possible under an incumbent government. He also said it is possible to form an election-time government within the provisions of the Constitution if the political parties reach a consensus over the issue.

“I am still confused whether the next polls will be an inclusive one, as both the major political parties—the AL and the BNP—are still rigid on their respective stance on an election-time government,” he said.

“The country is passing through a critical juncture and the politicians are responsible for this. Political consensus is a must to resolve the crisis,” he added.

Quoting former US president Ronald Reagan, he also said, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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