The attitude of continuously obstructing the country’s main opposition political party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from holding meetings and rallies - an inalienable right of any political party - can in no way be considered democratic. It seems that the main challenge for the Awami League-led government in the election year of 2018 is visible backtracking on its earlier position towards the main opposition.
The ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) has already clearly stated its position, by saying “the electoral train won’t stop at BNP’s station”, that the next general elections is going to be held under none but Sheikh Hasina.
But the question remains whether the ruling party’s attitude towards BNP will change even if BNP accepts that the next elections will be held under Hasina.
It’s expected that the administration will take legal steps whenever someone, be it BNP or else, would breach the law, but the administration continuously displays intolerance and a discriminatory attitude towards opposition leaders and activists.
The administration is well aware that people understand the fact that the BNP is being deprived of its rights to congregate and rally, and the excuse of applications from unknown organisations is being used for the purpose.
There will be a fundamental difference between not allowing BNP holding rallies in the past and in the days to come. The election commission will have to consider the matter from now on, because a level-playing field should be ensured for all not only when the election schedule is announced, but also from now.
A free environment - the prerequisite for a free election - will not develop overnight. The main contention of this years’ politics will be allowing opposition parties to hold their political programmes across the country.
The reason behind this apprehension is that opposition political parties may not be able to carry out their election campaign the way the ruling AL and its allies would be able to do.
We would hope the ruling party will take cognizance of the examples it often cites while arguing for elections under a partisan government, and will act accordingly. The ruling party will take consideration how it will keep up working relations with the main opposition. As the ruling party, AL will have to show a liberal attitude more than others.
AL has blatantly displayed indulgence towards the police obstacles to BNP rallies in several places like Khulna and Chittagong.
If calling 5 January elections an imperative for the constitutional continuation becomes the ‘freedom of expression’ of AL, then BNP’s observance of the day as ‘Democracy Killing Day’ falls under the purview of the same right.