Concerns are escalating due to the confrontational positions of the government and opposition parties regarding the electoral system. The likelihood of resolving the problem through dialogue is diminishing.
The entrenched stances of the two parties are pushing the country toward conflict and instability. The path of dialogue and resolution remains open. Both sides should prioritise national interests and convene at the negotiation table as soon as possible.
Speakers made these observations at a meeting titled “Consensus or violence: Which direction are we heading” on Sunday. The meeting was organised virtually by Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN).
Badiul Alam Majumdar, the secretary of SHUJAN, emphasised that according to constitutional obligations, the 12th national elections are scheduled to take place between 1 November and 29 January. Everyone desires these elections to be fair, impartial, and competitive. However, the current political landscape does not favour competitive elections.
He noted, “There is no consensus among political parties regarding the government's role during the election, and the potential consequences for the nation are extremely grave. The mounting tension surrounding the elections could escalate into serious violence.”
During the roundtable, Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik stated, "Those in power often believe they can amass wealth by exploiting state resources. Sweet words alone cannot persuade them to relinquish the very source of their gains. We are in the midst of an election-centric crisis, and a solution seems elusive. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that dialogue should be the path to resolution."
Rumeen Farhana, a former Member of Parliament from BNP, expressed her apprehension about bloodshed in the coming months. She advocated for realizing demands through street movements.
Awami League lawmaker Mohammad Ali Arafat commented that the country's internal problems should be resolved internally, adding, "We cannot address all issues in a single meeting."
Jatiya Party lawmaker Shamim Haider Patwari stressed the need for political parties to reach a consensus. He remarked, "First and foremost, we need a consensus among political parties. The election in 2014 was a success for Awami League. This time the main problem will arise after the election, the government should understand this.”
Consensus a far cry
Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Manabzamin, thinks that negotiation is elusive in the current context of Bangladesh. He said, “All parties are ambitious to get and stay in power. They cannot think of alternatives. The country is now become the fronts for superpowers to exert influence, rather than being solely the domain of Awami League or BNP.”
Local government expert Professor Tofail Ahmed said that what should be done to solve the political crisis has been discussed in the past. The votes of the two major political parties are almost equal. A country cannot progress by isolating a large section of the people of a society.
Sohrab Hasan, joint editor of Prothom Alo, believes that the minimum conditions for reaching a consensus are currently absent.
"Confusion over preparing voter list"
Former Election Commissioner Brigadier General (Retd.) M. Sakhawat Hossain stated that the National Identity Registration Bill specifies that the voter list should be compiled using information from the Ministry of Home Affairs. He regarded this section as highly significant and warned that it contradicts the constitution, predicting potential complications in the subsequent stages.
The meeting was presided over by Professor Sikandar Khan, a member of the SHUJAN National Committee.
Debates over 31 points
Zonayed Saki, the Chief Coordinator of Ganosamhati Andolon, stated that there is a qualitative change in the ongoing opposition movement. He mentioned that 31 points have been put forth for a new political settlement, emphasizing that negotiations with the current government in power are not feasible.
However, Professor Robaet Ferdous from Dhaka University's Department of Mass Communication and Journalism raised questions about the 31 points announced by the opposition parties.
He expressed doubts about whether those who announced the 31 clauses would implement them if they came into power, citing the example of the Awami League, which came to power with the support of a caretaker government and later abolished that system.
During the meeting, SHUJAN presented a 17-point national charter proposal to address the current political crisis. The proposal was presented by Dilip Kumar Sarker, the Central Coordinator of SHUJAN.