Alongside the governing Bangladesh Awami League (AL), its allies are also not very enthusiastic about the participation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the upcoming 12th parliamentary election. That is why both the AL and its allies have been thinking that the ongoing all-out actions against the de facto opposition is correct.
Leaders of the governing Awami League and the 14-party alliance have told Prothom Alo that BNP has been talking about not participating in the elections unless there is any non-party government. Along with this, the government’s strict stance and arrest spree across the country have actually ended the BNP’s possibility of joining the election.
Concerned sources say putting all-out pressure on BNP means neither the party has any scope to contest the election, nor is there any opportunity of dialogue. Instead, the ruling party has shifted its focus on persuading as many as possible other parties to join the election, and enhancing the voter turnout at the centres.
However, some in AL and allies are also worried about whether the US and other Western countries will raise allegations against them for creating obstacles to participatory elections due to this all-out pressure on BNP. The responsibility will be on AL and the allies. This could even create controversy over the voting results.
Let there be the election first. Then we will see. The voting will be fair. As a result, there will be no questions
Despite this, the government will continue to put pressure on the BNP as Awami League and allies think if the power of BNP is kept intact and allowed to continue its normal activities, this could create challenges in organising the election. That is why Awami League has been maintaining a strict stance regarding BNP.
Sources in AL and its allies informed Prothom Alo now there are no qualms about organising the parliamentary election on time when BNP is under so much pressure. Rather, there will be challenges after the election.
The economy is already under pressure and the prices of goods are skyrocketing. There will be a huge problem if the Western countries take any economic action after the one-sided election.
However, AL senior leader and coordinator of 14-party alliance, Amir Hossain Amu told Prothom Alo it seems BNP does not want to join elections. Otherwise, why would it begin arson and vandalisation?
He further said many other political parties will take part in the election even if the BNP boycotts it.
Asked about legitimacy or any controversy of the election, the AL leader said, “Let there be the election first. Then we will see. The voting will be fair. As a result, there will be no questions.”
Who will join polls if BNP boycotts?
Most of the political parties followed suit when BNP and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami announced a boycott of the election. Awami League and its allies won 153 seats uncontested in the 10th parliamentary election in 2014 when 151 seats are enough for any party to form the government. In 2018, as BNP joined the election, all the registered and unregistered parties contested the election.
Sources said the ruling party does not want to have an election like that of 2014. For this, participation of many parties is required. Besides, AL wants an increased voter turnout this time. Participation of many parties is required for this as well
This is why the Awami League and the allies have been thinking about how many parties would contest in the election if BNP and other parties that have been waging the ongoing movement simultaneously boycott the election.
Sources said the ruling party does not want to have an election like that of 2014. For this, participation of many parties is required. Besides, the AL wants an increased voter turnout this time. Participation of many parties is required for this as well. AL has even been encouraging BNP leaders to break away from the party and join the election.
But as the days are passing many other parties are losing interest in the election. The election commission (EC) called all the registered political parties for a dialogue on 4 November. But out of 44 parties, 18 including the BNP did not join.
This suggests that the parties are losing their interest in the election, said those concerned.
BNP made a grave political mistake on 28 October and have been facing its consequences. Now their ongoing movement or any announcement on boycotting the election will not have much effect on the people and the government
AL joint general secretary Mahbub Ul Hanif told Prothom Alo that the election will not be stopped for any party. But AL will seek participation of all the parties.
Speaking about the legitimacy of voting without the participation of all other parties, he said the most important thing is whether the people could cast their votes or not. Awami League will try to ensure a larger voter turnout.
Inflation and economy are concerns
Sources from AL policymaking level said they knew BNP would not prevail on the streets at the face of pressure from the law enforcement agencies. But the party has been thinking about the inflation and the economy after the election.
They said several things are important after the election. An influential country congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after the unilateral election in 2014. That was considered as a kind of legitimacy of the government. In the same way the government did not have to face any challenge after the 2018 election. But getting this recognition from influential countries could become important issues this time.
Meanwhile, the US and the Western countries have kept the Awami League under pressure and this may continue even after the election. They may even put various pressures in terms of economic steps, think Awami League. That’s why the party does not want to think about that anymore.
If the election is done, the plan of actions will be fixed after forming the government. Considering these things, the ruling quarters have been proceeding with the electoral preparations maintaining the pressure on BNP.
Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, a member of 14-party alliance, told Prothom Alo that BNP made a grave political mistake on 28 October and have been facing its consequences. Now their ongoing movement or any announcement on boycotting the election will not have much effect on the people and the government.
* The report was originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza