Photo shows the electoral symbol of Awami League, boat.

The allies of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance once again want the boat symbol to contest in the 12th parliamentary election to be held on 7 January next year.

The alliance partners want to ensure the victory of their important leaders from the constituencies that they will get following their negotiations with the ruling Awami League.

Other than this, the allies will also field several candidates with their party symbols.

Sources at the Awami League and the partners of 14-party alliance informed Prothom Alo about the matter.

The sources said Awami League and their partners started preparing for the election with the assumption that Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) is not participating in the polls.

Though formal talks on the sharing of parliamentary seats are yet to begin, the alliance partners may seek about 100 seats this time, which is a higher number than any previous election.

Meanwhile, allies of the 14-party alliance sent letters to the election commission stating that they will contest in the polls in collation with Awami League under the boat symbol.

Along with Awami League, six parties including Worker’s Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal wrote to the commission within the deadline, which ended on Saturday.

That means, these parties can contest in the polls on their party symbols, as well as the boat symbol.

Led by Anwar Hossain Manju, Jatiya Patry (JP), a partner of the 14-party Alliance, won seats in the 2018 election on the party’s electoral symbol, bicycle. Other allies, however, could not win the polls on their electoral symbols. This time, JP sent a letter to the election commission informing the latter that they will contest the election in collation with Awami League on boat symbol.

Sources at Awami League and 14-party Alliance said they are certain that other than partners allies of the 14-party, the Jatiya Party (JaPa) will join the election, but they have to negotiate on the parliamentary seats with JaPa.

There are also Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh and various Islamic parties. There are several lesser-known small parties, which are often dubbed as 'King's Party,' and they are Tranamool BNP, Bangladesh National Movement (BNM) and Bangladesh Supreme Party (BSP).

Some may defect from BNP and contest the election independently. As a result, the negotiation list is likely to get bigger this time and the Awami League mulls leaving 70 constituencies for the allies and the like-minded parties. Jatiya Party is likely to receive the highest number of seats, but if any important leader comes from the BNP, Awami League may spare more seats.

Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub ul Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo the partners of the 14-party alliance contested in past elections and, perhaps, they would do so this time. However, talks on parliamentary seats are yet to begin, he added.

It has been learned from several other sources of Awami League that the allies of the 14-party aAlliance are expecting to contest in the polls at more constituencies than the Awami League is considering to spare in total. After talking to the partners, it has been understood that they will file a list of at least 100 seats. Sources at the Awami League, however, said the ruling party is reluctant to give up more than 10 to 12 constituencies.

Awami League sources said the party will seek the list of the potential candidates from the allies after the submission of nomination, and the seats for the allies will be confirmed at the end of the withdrawal of the nomination. If the allies raise objections, Awami League will advise them to contest on their electoral symbols from their respective constituencies.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSAD) Hasanul Haque Inu told Prothom Alo informal talks are on to negotiate on parliament seats, but nothing has been finalised yet. If BNP does not join the polls, several seats may be left open for negotiation, he added.

History of the alliance

Awami League gave 13 constituencies to the partners of the 14-party alliance in the 2018 election. Of which, Bangladesh JaSaD led by Sharif Nurul Ambia won two seats, but that party is no longer with the alliance.

Workers Party contested in five seats in the last election, but they lost in two seats. JaSAD led by Hasanul Haque Inu contested in three seats, but won two. Bangladesh Tarikat Federation and JP got a seat each and won. JP secretary general Sheikh Shahidul Islam told Prothom Alo this time they plan to contest the polls on both boat and bicycle symbols.

Allies of Awami League-led allies clinched the biggest success at the 10th parliamentary election in 2014, which the BNP, main political rival of ruling Awami League, boycotted. A total of 153 lawmakers were elected uncontested. JaSAD fielded candidates at 24 seats in that one-sided election, and won five seats, including the three seats that they won uncontested. Workers Party contested in 18 constituencies and won six seats, including two seats that went uncontested. JP fielded candidates at 28 seats in that one-sided election, and won two seats. Tarikat Federation contested in three constituencies and won two while other allies won no seats.

Awami League played a role in the uncontested victory of the allies’ candidates during the 10th parliamentary election through negotiating with the main leaders of the allies. Awami League also helped the allies’ candidates to contest in several constituencies.

Awami League contested in the ninth parliamentary election in 2008 in coalition with the 14-party Alliance. Partners of the alliance – JaSAD, Workers Party, Tarikat Federation, Ganatantri Party, Samyabadi Dal and JP – fielded candidate in that election on boat symbol, as well as their electoral symbols.

JaSAD contested in seven constituencies, including four seats on boat symbols and they won three of them. Workers Party contested in five seats – two on the party’s electoral symbol, hammer, and three on boat symbol, and they won two seats. JaSAD and Workers party together won five seats and all of them on boat symbol. Tariakat Federation and JP got a seat seat each.

Tariakat Federation chairman Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari told Prothom Alo they will ask for 15 seats, and this time they will also contest the election with boat symbol at the constituencies that the Awami League will give them.

Letter to election commission

According to the Representation of the People Order, several registered political parties aspiring to contest an election may form an election coalition, and partners of such coalition can contest the election with the electoral symbol of any of the partners. If a political party from such a coalition wishes to contest the election with the symbol of another collation partner, they are required to appeal to the election commission in the next three days since the announcement of election schedule. The election commission announced the polls schedule on 15 November.

Along with Awami League, other allies of the 14-party Alliance that informed the election commission about contesting the upcoming election in collation are Jatiya Party (JP), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSAD) Workers Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal and Gantantri Party. Of them, Gantantri Party is spilt into two factions, and both factions sent letter to the commission, but it is still unclear which faction is registered with the election commission.

Other than this, Bikalpa Dhara said they would join the election as a partner of the Awami League-led 'grand alliance' (mahajote), but they did not specifically seek for boat symbol.

Election commission additional secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath said on Saturday afternoon the letter of Awami league stated they will contest the election in collation with boat symbol, but the letter did not mention which parties will be when them.

According to the polls schedule, voting to the 12th parliamentary election will be held on 7 January next year. The last day of submitting nomination is 30 November while the nomination will be scrutinised on 1-4 December and candidates will have until 17 December to withdraw their candidature. Symbols will be distributed on 18 December.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna