Parties join pre-polls race for gaining upperhand

Anowar Hossain . Dhaka | Update:

.Ruling Awami League (AL) and arch rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are out to establish their control over national politics ahead of the next general elections scheduled to be held in December.

Accordingly, leaders across the country's political divide say, the current month may turn out to be an eventful one in view of the possible opposition programmes and the ruling camp's efforts to stop them.

The AL's strategy is to go to the 11th parliament elections maintaining the party's tough stance on the opposition camp, according to ruling party insiders.

The BNP’s target is to form a greater alliance and pressure the government to arrange an election that is free and fair, BNP leaders said.

According to AL policymakers, the government has a plan to go for wholesale arrests if the BNP tries to take to the streets and create what the AL calls anarchy.

The AL, they added, is also active to make sure that the principal opposition party cannot expand its 20-party alliance.

"Different political parties are working to forge alliances and preparing for the national elections. Such activities will enhance in September," AL presidium member Faruk Khan told Prothom Alo.

Sources close to the government and AL said the government wants a faction of the BNP, to be free from influence of Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman, to join the elections.

A section of ruling party leaders think BNP may boycott elections again if they are not assured of a fair election. In that case, it would be easier to bring the weaker portion of BNP to the elections, AL leaders said.

The BNP insiders said they are in favour of joining the elections. And the party is also working to forge a greater alliance.

At the same time, they added, preparations are also going on to launch a fresh demonstration to free Khaleda Zia and compel the government to hold a fair election.

"It is not possible to hold a fair election without a neutral government and keep the present parliament functional,” BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo.

It is the responsibility of the government to hold a dialogue with the opposition parties and resolve the current deadlock, he insisted.

Fakhrul said they are working to forge a greater alliance, working out common issues and devising common programmes.

The election commission (EC) has already announced that the national election will be held in the last week of December.

It is being discussed at different levels that the poll-time government would be formed in October with prime minister Sheikh Hasina as its head.

The AL has already ruled out the possibility of including the BNP or any other parties outside the current parliament into the poll-time government.

The EC's move for introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) to the national polls has arisen as the new controversial issue.

The commission on Thursday finalised a proposal to amend the People Representation Order (RPO) with a provision to use EVMs in the national elections defying strong opposition from the BNP and some other parties.

The AL insiders said they do not have 'much concern' about EVMs but they will be happy to keep the BNP busy with such issues.

Alignments and equations

The AL-led 14-party alliance has passed a decade while the BNP-led 20-party alliance was formed a long ago. The process of forging alliance and grand alliance come to light ahead of the next elections.

Jukta (United) Front leader AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, in a meeting at Gano Forum president Kamal Hossain's residence recently, said they agreed to work on forging a greater national unity before the national elections. The Front is comprised of Bikalpadhara Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Nagorik Oikya, so far.

On 18 July this year, the Left Democratic Alliance was formed with eight political parties but it is still not clear whether these two alliances will join the ruling AL camp or the opposition BNP alliance or they will form a third alliance.

Role of Jatiya Party, Jammat-e-Islami

The AL considers Ershad-led Jatiya Party is important in politics of ballot and it wants JaPa’s support in every election. The JaPa has assured the AL of extending its support.

However, some AL leaders feared JaPa may change its political stance in changing circumstances.

The BNP, on the other hand, counts on Jamaat’s vote bank. A section of the BNP still wants to sever ties with the Jamaat as they faced criticism for keeping the Jamaat in its alliance.

The distance between two parties has widened since Jamaat’s decision to contest the Sylhet city corporation polls separately. Though Jamaat has lost its registration with the EC, it is silently preparing to contest the national elections.

When asked, former adviser to caretaker government Sultana Kamal said the political environment has not changed. But she hoped the political parties would be 'more responsible' in the days ahead of elections.

She also hoped that the politicians would create an atmosphere in which the people would be able to play their role in determining the future of the country.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Galib Ashraf. 

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