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3 November, 2018 00:00 00 AM

AL, BNP rigid stances cast doubt over inclusive polls

Rafiqul Islam Azad and Abu Jakir
AL, BNP rigid stances cast doubt over inclusive polls

The much-hyped dialogue between the Awami League-led 14-Party Alliance and the Jatiya Oikya Front, whose major component is the BNP, on Thursday ended without arriving at a decision. This has created doubts among citizens about an inclusive general election. Talking to The Independent, some of the country’s eminent citizens said the talks ended inconclusively, as both the major parties—the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)—were rigid in their stand. If these two parties do not soften their stand, the nation will face severe consequences in the days to come, they said.

The eminent citizens also said the people will have to wait till the next small-group talks to see whether the two major parties can reach a consensus over holding the next polls in a free, fair and credible manner.

When contacted, Badiul Alam Majumder, general secretary of Sushashoner Jonnoo Nagorik (Sujan), said there are three barriers in holding a free, fair and acceptable election. These are, partisan behaviour of law enforcers, bureaucrats and the Election Commission, and keeping Parliament on.

He warned that if the talks fail, the situation would become uncertain and there would be pandemonium .

Majumder termed the talks between the 14-party alliance and the Jatiya Oikya Front as a discussion meeting and not a dialogue and said dialogue should be held in small groups and, if necessary, behind the curtain, aiming at reaching an understanding over the differences.

He thinks the 15th amendment to the Constitution was made to prolong staying in power.

The 15th amendment did not make the solemn expression of the will of the people and it was a lopsided one, he added.

Opposing election under a political government, he said no political government was defeated in any election held under a political government in the country’s history.

The main issue of the election is ensuring voting rights through which the will of the people will be represented. If they (two sides) want holding a free and fair election, they can find a way, he observed.

Referring to three assurances of the Awami League -- holding rallies, considering withdrawal of fake cases and allowing foreign observers -- he said these cannot be topics of the dialogue as these are fundamental rights.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB), said the result of the dialogue is not surprising at all.

He, however, said a dialogue has happened and a few more are set to take place. This is the best one could expect in the given political context.

Only those who hoped much beyond that will be disappointed. It is hard to expect a few conversations like these, bereft of anything akin to constructive approach of give and take, and with participants firmly entrenched in their respective positions, to yield a roadmap towards a free, fair and inclusive election by ensuring a level playing field, he observed.

Given the mutually contradictory stand of the contending sides, he said if Thursday's dialogue conveyed any

message, it is that in all probability, the outcome of the forthcoming election may be determined by anything, but people’s verdict, although it is most unlikely to be a simple repeat of 2014.

Brig. Gen. (Retd) M Sakhawat Hossain termed the dialogue of the Jatiya Oikya Front with the Prime Minister as an achievement.

The AL has said more talks are likely to be held if there is time. But uneasiness might prevail if there is no time for further dialogue, he said.

The former election commissioner, who sees no ground of a conflicting situation, said the nation has to wait more days to assess whether the country would move towards a conflicting situation.

He expressed optimism that the two sides would be able to find a solution to the current political impasse.

The AL says it cannot go beyond the country’s Constitution. As per the Constitution, the next general election would be held under the Sheikh Hasina government. But the BNP has repeatedly been saying that it would not take part in the polls under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

During the talks on Thursday, the BNP, under the banner of the Jatiya Oikya Front, placed its seven-point demands aimed at ensuring a free, fair and credible election.

The demands include formation of a neutral poll-time government, dissolution of Parliament, reconstitution of the Election Commission, release of BNP chief Khaleda Zia and all other political prisoners, deployment of the army with magistracy powers and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the polls.

Sheikh Hasina and other leaders of the AL-led alliance rejected the demands.

Besides, leaders of the Jatiya Oikya Front have already announced that they will realise their demands by forging a movement on the street, if they failed to reach a consensus with the ruling alliance.

At a press conference on Friday, the BNP alleged that the hope generated among people to have a good deal to resolve the ongoing political impasse through Thursday’s talks, has started fading due to the government’s “stubborn” attitude.

“The dogmatic attitude the ruling alliance showed during the talks with the opposition is an ominous sign for democracy and a fair election,” said BNP senior joint secretary general, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.

Speaking to journalists at the party’s Nayapaltan central office, the BNP leader further said the progress on the efforts to hold a fair election has also been affected due to AL’s firm stand on not responding to the Oikya Front’s demands.

He, however, said if the government is sincere in holding a fair and neutral election and removing the politics of division, it should hold further talks with Oikya Front leaders to reach a consensus on their demands.

AL leaders said the 11th parliamentary elections will be held in time in line with the country’s Constitution, under an election-time government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. No one will be able to foil the, they added.

AL insiders said they would not pay heed to the Oikya Front’s demand for a neutral poll-time administration to oversee the next polls.

The AL believes the BNP has no alternative but to participate in that election because if the party doesn’t take part in the polls, its registration with the Election Commission (EC) will be cancelled this time.

Talking to the media yesterday, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader again said the next polls will be held in line with constitutional provisions. They can’t go beyond the Constitution, he added.  

When contacted, AL joint general secretary Abdur Rahman MP, said yesterday participation of the BNP in the next elections is not necessary. As per the Constitution, a general election is to be held every five years. Therefore, the next polls will be held in time, even if the BNP does not join the elections, he added.

“We have already reconstituted the Election Commission and the Sheikh Hasina-led election time government will help the EC hold a free, fair and credible general election,” he said.

Seeking anonymity, a central leader of the Awami League told this correspondent that they have no headache whether a party (BNP) would join the next polls or not.

According to government and Election Commission sources, the 11th parliamentary elections will be held either at the year-end or the first week of January.



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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.

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