Boycotting the dialogue initiated by the Election Commission, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) once again proved its incompetence in responding to the call of time.
The apprehension of the countrymen that BNP wants to come to power by hook or by crook once again became true.
The EC organised the dialogue with different political parties to inform them about the preparations made for the next national polls, but going against the democratic norms, BNP and some like-minded parties skipped the talks terming it a mockery.
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“They (EC) are going to stage this mockery in the name of dialogue as per the directive of the government,” said BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi two days before the dialogue.
The EC held the talks with 26 registered political parties at the conference room of EC Bhaban at Agargaon in the capital on Saturday in two sessions. Out of 44 registered political parties invited to participate in the dialogue, 18 parties including the BNP boycotted the talks.
Meanwhile, instead of taking part in dialogue, which is universally-accepted as the only means to resolve political differences, the BNP men resorted to widespread violence, burning public vehicles and killing innocent pedestrians, to press home its anti-constitutional demand of caretaker government. At least 11 people were killed, including two policemen, and scores injured in ongoing political violence carried out by BNP men across the country since the party’s October 28 rally in Dhaka.
Parties participated in EC’s talks
After holding talks with the political parties, EC officials told the media that they are taking preparations to announce the schedule of the national election in mid-November, and in that case the polls will be held in January 2024.
On November 4, 13 political parties, including the ruling Awami League (AL), took part in the first phase of talks with the EC. Apart from AL, Bangladesh Supreme Party (BSP), a faction of Islami Oikya Jote, Gana Front, Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF), Trinamool BNP, Bangladesh Congress, National Awami Party (NAP), Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM), Insaniyat Biplob Bangladesh, Islami Front Bangladesh, National People’s Party (NPP), and Gana Forum representatives participated in the dialogue.
Nine other parties including the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), and the Bangladesh Kallyan Party, however, did not turn up to attend the discussion.
In the afternoon session of talks on the same day, nine political parties skipped the talks while 13 attended.
Samyabadi Dal, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), BNM, Islamic Front, Tarikat Federation, Jaker Party, Jatiya Party (JP), Bikalpa Dhara, Bangladesh National Awami Party, Sangskritik Muktijote, Workers Party and two other parties participated in the second phase of the EC’s dialogue.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal presided over both sessions of the talks skipped by a total of 18 parties.
What EC says
In reply to a query about why some parties skipped the dialogue, CEC Awal said, “We gave little time for the dialogue. Some parties might have skipped due to the time constraints. If they wish, I will talk to the commission and we will try to sit and listen to them also.”
“We have only two months at hand before the election. So, we have to move fast,” he added.
“We want to communicate with everyone, informing about the preparations we have made regarding the elections because political parties are the main stakeholders in elections,” the CEC said, adding, “The electoral environment was discussed today, with parties setting out some conditions that they would like to see for the polls.”
BNP’s participation in polls not constitutionally mandatory: AL
Meanwhile, emerging out of the meeting with the EC, Awami League Presidium Member Muhammad Farooq Khan told the media, “I am optimistic that the elections will be fair. Based on the information provided to us, I believe the election will be conducted fairly.”
“We are witnessing the realisation of commitments made by the Election Commission and implementation of measures by our government to ensure equitable elections. The reintroduction of a seal and signature system on the back of each ballot paper is a positive step in this direction,” he said.
In reply to a query over whether the election could be termed participatory if the BNP does not take part, the AL presidium member said, “It is not a constitutional or legal requirement to hold elections with their participation. We have seen many political parties worldwide opting out of elections, especially those without substantial public backing and confidence.”
Responding to queries regarding BNP’s political violence in the name of hartal and blockade, Farooq Khan said, “If any political party, individual, or institution acts against the law, our law enforcement agencies will continue taking action against them as they had taken earlier.”
90-day countdown starts
According to the constitution, parliamentary elections are mandated to be held within 90 days prior to the conclusion of the five-year parliamentary term. With the current parliament’s term ending on 29 January, the 90-day countdown began on November 1.
The EC expressed its intention to unveil the national election schedule in mid-November, with plans to hold the election in January.
In July 2022, the EC conducted a dialogue with political parties to establish an action plan for the 12th national elections. As usual, BNP abstained from participating in the talks.