EC says tough to hold Bangladesh polls with parliament in place

EC says tough to hold Bangladesh polls with parliament in place

Bangladesh’s Election Commissioner Abu Hafiz yesterday said it will be tough for the Election Commission (EC) to hold the next general election keeping the parliament in place.

“It’ll be easier for the Election Commission to hold the next general election if the parliament is dissolved,” he told reporters at the Election Commission secretariat in Dhaka.

Abu Hafiz said the EC wants a fair and successful election.

But Hafiz did not explain which work would become easier after Parliament is dissolved. His remarks came at a time when the opposition BNP is demanding the dissolution of Parliament before the parliamentary elections against the Awami League-led government’s stance on holding the polls under its supervision in accordance with the Constitution.

The EC has not yet been informed by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina if the general election will take place without the parliament being dissolved.

Hasina has made it clear that her party will head the election-time administration but the commission is hopeful that it will all lead to a ‘consensus’.

Hafiz had earlier shared his concerns with reporters: “The prime minister’s statement isn’t final. Equality for all for the election has not been achieved yet, but we will have to wait until the time of the election to take legal measures over this matter.”

The Constitution stipulates holding the election 90 days after Parliament runs its term, meaning the balloting must be held between October 24 and January 24.

The prime minister while meeting with the secretaries said the government was valid until January 24, according to the Constitution. The parliament will be intact during the 90 days but it will not be in session.

Hafiz had said: “The prime minister said the election will be held with the parliament remaining in effect. We don’t even know if this is her final decision.”

It is still ‘unclear’ if the election in the end will be held without the dissolution of Parliament, added the commissioner.

“Ultimately, it will be the political situation that will decide the outcome. We don’t know what will happen if the assembly remains or is dissolved.”

However, he said the polls preparations so far has been in accordance with the prime minister’s stance.

“We are doing according to what the prime minister said will happen. Time will tell what the outcome will be. We will know for sure how the election will be when it does arrive at our doorstep.”

He said nothing with regard to the election will take place until October 24 and the EC was still looking forward to arriving at political consensus. But, they were hopeful that the main opposition BNP will go to the polls.

“Something agreeable will happen, but we don’t feel it will be a compromise. We want an election which will be participated by all.”

Khaleda warns of non-stop strikes

Our correspondent/Dhaka

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday threatened her political rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with launching nonstop general strikes and blockades in the country if her party’s demand for a non-party election-time government is not met.

She issued the warning while addressing a huge public meeting at Poura Shishu Park ground in the Narsingdi district town, organised by the BNP-led 18-party alliance.

This was the first grassroots level public meeting Khaleda addressed as part of a series of motivational campaigns the 18-party alliance has planned.

She said Hasina will have to take an exit if their demand is not met. Khaleda said the BNP is always in favour of discussion to settle the issue, but she alleged the PM has “blocked the path of dialogue”.

The former PM also said her party is still ready for discussing the issue.

She urged the ruling party to table a bill in Parliament on a non-party government, pass it and hold the next general election, dissolving the parliament accordingly.

During her 45-minute speech, the BNP chairperson also cited failures, corruption, and misdeeds of the Awami League government and their unfulfilled election pledges.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has amended the Constitution (scrapping the caretaker provision) with a view to staying in power for life,” the BNP chief told the rally.

The rally marked the beginning of the opposition’s campaign in eight districts to whip up support for its demand.

Khaleda said the BNP knows how to stage demonstrations. “But we do not kill like them (the Awami League),” she said.

“The Awami League had enforced general strikes for 176 days to press for a caretaker government,” Khaleda alleged. “We will resort to non-stop demonstrations.”

In 1996, the Awami League, then the opposition party, had launched a series of strikes, demanding a caretaker body to oversee the polls, claiming elections under Khaleda, who was then the prime minister, would not be free and fair.

“Either the caretaker will be restored or Hasina will be forced out of office,” said Khaleda.

The BNP, which heads the 18-Party alliance, has been staging street protests ever since the provision was scrapped through the 15th constitutional amendment in line with a previous Supreme Court verdict.

As per the amendment, the incumbent government will organise the next national election.

Khaleda promised forming a ‘new type of government’ if voted to power.

“We’ll form a new type of government in future,” she told thousands of her supporters at the rally.

She explained that by ‘new type’ she meant that the government would not take to politics of violence “like the Awami League”, and would ensure good governance and progress.

The opposition chief alleged the prime minister had planned to hold the election under her government to stay in power “forever”.

“Can such an election be free and fair?” she asked.

The former prime minister insisted that Parliament be dissolved before the vote.

“A bill to revive the caretaker must be passed in Parliament. The BNP will take part in the polls only if it is organised in a free and fair manner,” she said.

She claimed Bangladesh had not seen any progress under the Awami League-led government.

Hasina too is already on a campaign trail, asking people, in recent Awami League rallies to vote for her party.