Opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front on Sunday announced that they would join the 11th parliamentary elections and demanded deferment of the schedule by one month.
Front leader and Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir made the announcement terming it a part of their ongoing movement for ‘restoration of democracy’ at a crowded press conference at the National Press Club in presence of alliance chief Dr Kamal Hossain.
Chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda said that the commission would make a decision on the demand in its meeting today while ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the party had no objection if the commission rescheduled the polls.
The front’s decision came three days after the Election Commission on November 8 announced the polls schedule fixing December 23 as the polling day.
‘In the face of acute adverse situation, the Jatiya Oikya Front has decided to participate in the election as part of its movement for restoration of democracy,’ Fakhrul read out a written statement signed by Kamal, also Gono Forum president.
Explaining the situation, he said that minimum requirement for a level playing field was not met and massive propaganda of the government’s development activities by the state-run Bangladesh Television and other televisions and electronic media continued even after the announcement of the schedule in violations of the electoral code of conduct.
Launched on October 13, the front continued pressing for its seven-point demand, including resignation of the government, formation of polls-time party-neutral government, dissolution of parliament, release of jailed BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and other political prisoners and reconstitution of the Election Commission for a free, fair and credible election.
Fakhrul said that most of their seven demands were turned down by the government during their dialogues with prime minister and ruling Awami League president Sheikh Hasina held on November 1 and 7.
‘Unfortunately, found no minimum compromising attitude of the government to overcome the present political crisis,’ he said.
‘We have not keep away from our seven-point demand, rather added new demand for deferment of the polls schedule,’ Fakhrul said adding that the government and the Election Commission must take the responsibility for the consequences for failure to hold a participatory election.
The front will monitor the activities of the government and the commission alongside its preparation for the election, he said.
He alleged that the commission was not functioning independently and announced the polls schedule at the government’s instruction.
In the dialogue, the prime minister assured the front of no more obstruction to holding rally and procession and filing of no more ‘fictitious cases.’
After the dialogue, law enforcement agencies delayed permission to hold rallies in Dhaka and Rajshahi while road communications were suspended before the rallies.
He also alleged that at least 1,200 BNP activists were arrested a day after the Hasina assured them of no more harassment and arrest of opposition activists in fictitious cases.
Criticising the Election Commission for fixing polling date 35 days before the expiry of the 90-day timeframe for the polls, he said that the polling date was fixed 13, 12 and 20 days ahead of the deadlines in 1996, 2001 and 2014 election respectively.
He also mentioned that the polls schedule was deferred twice in 2008 to ensure the participation of the then BNP-led alliance.
He said that it now became clear that the government was trying to hold another unilateral election as it held on January 5, 2014.
Replying a question, Kamal Hossain said that the alliance would later announce its electoral symbol.
Later on the day, Fakhru, also the Jatiya Oikya Front spokesperson, in a letter urged the commission to defer the polls schedule by one month.
BNP chairperson’s advisory council member Bijon Kanti Sarkar handed over the letter to commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed.
Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury told New Age Sunday evening that the front sent a letter to the commission seeking time to meet the chief election commissioner and other commissioners.
In a letter AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Jukta Front also urged the commission to defer the polls schedule by seven days.
Chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda told reporters that the commission would make a decision on the demands for deferral of the schedule in its meeting today.
Emerging from the office, he also said that that front’s decision to join the polls would make the election participatory.
Ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader at a press conference at AL chief’s office at Dhanmondi said that the party had no objection if the commission rescheduled the polls.
Jamir Uddin Sarkar and Moudud Ahmed of BNP, ASM Abdur Rob and Abdul Malek Ratan of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction, Mahmudur Rahman Manna of Nagorik Oikya, Subrata Chowdhury of Gono Forum, former Dhaka Univeristy Central Students Union vice-president Sultan Muhammed Mansur Ahmad and Gonoshashthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, among others, were present at the press conference.
The election to the 10th parliament, held on January 5, 2014, drew widespread criticism as all opposition political parties boycotted the polls and candidates in 153 of the 300 territorial constituencies were announced elected uncontested.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Politics