- As per the updated list, 11,96,91,633 voters can vote in the polls
- 70 percent of people support PM Sheikh Hasina
- Election Commission vows for a free and fair election
Bangladesh’s next crucial general election will be held on January 7, (Sunday) 2023, Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal said in a televised speech on Wednesday in which 11,96,91,633 voters are registered.
Claiming that there is an environment of holding free, fair, and participatory polls, the Chief Election Commissioner invited all political parties to participate in the polls during a live telecast from Bangladesh’s Election Commission Head Office. The CEC also assured them of taking all necessary measures to ensure a free and fair election and urged everyone to participate and cooperate with the electoral process to make the election transparent and credible.
The Election Commission will scrutinise the submissions from 1-4 December. Appeals against the nominations can be submitted from 6-5 December and nominations need to be withdrawn by 17 December.
The CEC also said political parties will be able to distribute symbols within 18 December and the election campaign will officially kick off on 18 December. The last day of the campaign will be 5 January.
“We have held discussions with various stakeholders on numerous occasions. Heard them out, heard their suggestions, explained our position. We have also called different political parties for dialogue.
“EC, with the government’s help, wants peaceful, participatory, and free polls. All political parties must abide by the code of conduct, maintain law and order,” the CEC said.
The EC would issue a public notification and appoint returning officers and assistant returning officers shortly. The ROs with the assistance of the AROs will do all the necessary work to conduct the election. They will have the legal powers, under the electoral laws, to ensure a free and fair election.
The EC would also send a demi-official letter to the cabinet division, seeking assistance in conducting the election and asking that field-level government officers are not transferred until the results are published.
The CEC announced the poll schedule in a televised speech for the first time in the history of Bangladesh.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal recently met with President Mohammed Shahabuddin, Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan to apprise the overall situation. He also met leaders of 27 political parties, officials of security forces, different ministries, and other key stakeholders before announcing the much-anticipated election schedules.
Electoral Code of Conduct Comes into Effect
With the announcement of the poll schedule, the electoral code of conduct has taken an immediate effect. The EC is likely to issue directives shortly, asking all aspiring candidates to remove their posters, placards, banners, and billboards from public places within a specific timeframe. No one can start the election campaign until the last date for withdrawal of candidacy on December 17.
Ministers and lawmakers cannot use government vehicles or enjoy facilities for carrying out election-related work. They are also not allowed to make any donations to any institution from public funds.
Besides, the government cannot approve or inaugurate any development project at this time. Prior to the announcement of the schedule, the CEC convened the 26th EC meeting with all other election commissioners to finalize the schedule at his office in Dhaka around 5 pm.
EC’s Preparedness to Hold Free, Fair Election
The Election Commission (EC) has taken all-out preparations to hold the next parliamentary elections credibly.
The Election Commission (EC) is now stronger due to the amendments to the Representation of the People Order (RPO). As per the new amendment, the EC will have the authority to cancel the voting of several affected centers if it finds any irregularities through its investigation after the voting, and the EC will have the power to stop gazette issuance.
The commission last week updated the voter list with 11,96,91,633 voters. It primarily estimated that about Tk 1,445 crore would be needed to hold the polls. During the eleventh national polls, the eligible voter was 10, 42, 38,677. But, around 1,54,52,956 fresh voters have enrolled in the voter list during the last five years.
Security Blanket Shrouds Capital
Centering the election schedule announcement, major areas of the capital city have been brought under a security blanket through the deployment of police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB).
At least 10 platoons of BGB have been deployed around the areas surrounding the Election Commission Head Office in Agargaon to prevent any untoward situation. Additionally, 181 platoons of BGB have been deployed across the country, confirmed BGB public relations official Md Shariful Islam.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Habibur Rahman has warned that law enforcement agencies will take stern action if there is any kind of anarchy or disorder in the name of movements.
However, movements adhering to rules and regulations will be supported by police protection, the DMP chief said.
“The police will provide security if the movements are held following rules and regulations in place,” he said underscoring that any attempts to disrupt law and order would be met with firm action.
All police stations have been asked to remain alert across the capital city and many armored personnel carriers (APC), along with water cannons, could be seen in different points of the city. Division Deputy Commissioner Hayatul Islam Khan said a good number of policemen and armored vehicles have been deployed to avert any untoward situation.
EC to Invite 42 Countries to Monitor Polls
The Election Commission has decided to invite election management bodies from 42 countries to monitor the upcoming parliamentary polls. It will also invite the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
EC officials told media that they will send invitations to election management bodies of China, Russia, India, Australia, Canada, France, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Qatar, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and other countries.
During the last election, 38 observers from the Commonwealth, OIC, and Philippines-based Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA), among others came to Bangladesh on EC’s invitation.
Besides, 62 foreigners and 69 Bangladeshis from different foreign missions worked as international observers in the 2018 election, compared to 593 in 2008 and 225 in 2001.
Meanwhile, the EC on October 22 invited applications from interested international observers by November 21 to monitor the polls.
EC gives great importance to the election observation process for the sake of transparency, it said on Tuesday in a notice. The Commonwealth’s pre-election assessment mission will meet the chief election commissioner on November 19. A US pre-election mission has visited Bangladesh but is yet to declare whether they will send a full mission or not.
AL Preparing for the Election, BNP Eyes Boycott
The ruling Awami League (AL) is gearing up for the upcoming national elections, with a key focus on ensuring a healthy voter turnout but the key opposition Bangladesh Nationalists Party and its allies eye for boycotting the next election demanding a caretaker polls-time government, which is unconstitutional by law.
BNP also refused to participate in a recent dialogue hosted by the EC and said it will not engage any kind of political talks until the government resigns.
The party also resorted to strict movements like the Hartal, Blockade, and other destructive movements, which already claimed more than 11 peoples’ lives including policemen and journalists after October 28.
The ongoing blockade movements caused widespread destruction of public properties including the burning of more than 154 vehicles across the country and the disruption of vital supply chains, which are to be blamed for the recent price hike of daily essentials.
As a result of the adamant attitude of the party’s top leaders, many mid-level leaders as well as the rank and file of BNP are now deserting the party and on November 8 more than 600 leaders and activists of different political parties joined Trinamool BNP.
Political analysts said that the BNP may join the polls in the last hour otherwise the party could split into several parts or some party leaders may contest the election as independent candidates.
On Wednesday (November 15) nearly 125 leaders of the BNP announced that they will participate in the upcoming general election as independent candidates under a platform named Swatantra Ganatantra Mancha. BNP central executive committee member Advocate Khandaker Ahsan Habib read out a written statement at the press conference.
Aiming for another landslide victory, the ruling Awami League is determined to foster a high voter turnout. Their multifaceted strategy encompasses mobilizing existing supporters, engaging government benefit recipients, assisting vulnerable voters, and conducting vigorous door-to-door campaigns.
The success of their strategy, as seen in recent local elections, sets a positive tone for the upcoming national polls.
Awami League is placing significant emphasis on including measures to address youth unemployment in its upcoming election manifesto. The party aims to foster employment opportunities by promoting the development of a Smart Bangladesh.
At a recent announcement during the AL’s manifesto drafting committee meeting on November 5, the party said that AL’s election manifesto will emphasize several areas including building an educated society, addressing economic challenges, poverty reduction, promoting production-oriented industries, inclusive development, and good governance, cultural enrichment, towards a prosperous and advanced nation.
PM Hasina Enjoys Majority of People’s Support
An overwhelming majority of 70 percent of respondents think that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is doing ‘a good job,’ according to the latest survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington-based non-profit organization.
This represents a 4% increase in approval compared to 2018. Analysts believe that the support galore for PM Hasina for her successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, impressive overall developments, and rolling out of a number of safety net schemes. On the government’s performance in different sectors, the endorsement for Awami League also stood “high”, as per the survey.
Election under Global spotlight
Global superpowers have been playing a proactive role ahead of the election as Bangladesh becomes important player in South Asia’s geopolitical game.
Several foreign countries including the USA have recently poked their nose into Bangladesh’s internal matters, which raised widespread concern about their intention.
Throughout the past year, numerous senior U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas, and State Department Counselor Derek Cholett, have made public statements advocating for the need for free and fair elections in Bangladesh but their tone apparently back BNP’s stance. Ambassador Peter Haas’s recent actions have raised questions regarding their alignment with diplomatic norms.
Several other nations have also aligned themselves with the U.S. stance on this matter. The United Kingdom, Japan, and several other countries have echoed the U.S. calls for enhanced electoral standards.
The government strongly opposes any interference by the United Nations or foreign nations in the conduct of fair elections, as it goes against the principles of the country. As per the constitution of our nation, every effort has been made to ensure that a free, fair, and impartial election is accessible to all, regardless of their political affiliations.
On the other hand, India, China, and Russia have recently unequivocally extended their support towards the democratic advancement in Bangladesh and said they would oppose any foreign meddling in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.
Democratic people of Bangladesh expressed their concerns that certain elements within the international community are making attempts to influence Bangladesh’s election process through various means, a situation that is far from desirable.