Ten political parties, including the Awami League, have submitted applications to the Election Commission (EC) to contest the 12th National Parliament elections as part of a coalition. Besides the Awami League, six other parties have communicated to the EC their intention to join the 14-party alliance, utilizing the Awami League’s ‘boat’ symbol for the elections.
As per the People’s Representation Order outlined in the National Assembly Elections Act, various registered political parties desiring to participate in the election can establish an electoral alliance and jointly conduct elections. Alliance members are entitled to participate in the elections using the symbol of any alliance partner.
To secure such a symbol, the alliance must submit an application to the Election Commission within three days of the election schedule announcement. The Election Commission declared the schedule for the 12th National Assembly elections last Wednesday (November 15, 2023). The deadline for notifying the EC regarding coalition elections was yesterday, Saturday, November 18, 2023.
AL’s Boat Symbol Attracts Six Political Parties
As per information from EC sources, the political entities that have communicated their intention to contest the election in the alliance include Awami League, Jatiya Party (JP), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSAD), Bangladesh Workers Party, Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal, Jatiya Party (Japa), Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, and Trinamool BNP.
Moreover, in addition to Awami League, Jasad, Workers Party, Tariqat Federation, JP, Samyabadi Party, and Democratic Party have informed the EC of their decision to participate in the election using the boat symbol. Due to the division in the Democratic Party, clarity is awaited on which part is officially registered, and both sections of the Democratic Party have submitted separate letters.
Apart from these, Jatiya Party and Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh have expressed their commitment to join the election as part of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance. However, they have not specifically specified the boat symbol. Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh has indicated an interest in choosing the alliance symbol later, as agreed upon by the alliance. Jatiya Party’s chief sponsor, Roshan Ershad, mentioned in a letter that Jatiya Party’s nominated candidates can opt for the party symbol ‘plow’ or join the grand alliance based on the candidate’s preference.
Apart from Awami League, the six other parties that have informed the EC of their desire to join the 14-party coalition using the Awami League’s ‘boat’ symbol for elections are discussed below;
National Socialist Party (JASAD)
It was established on 31 October 2002. Its current president is Hasanul Haque Inu. JASAD President Hasanul Haque Inu served as Information Minister in the 2014-2019 government. In the 10th National Parliament, JASAD had a total of 6 parliamentary seats under them. These are;
- (Reserved Seats for Women)
In the 11th National Parliament, JASAD had 3 parliamentary seats. These are;
- (Bogra 4)
Bangladesh Workers Party
Bangladesh Workers Party is a political party in Bangladesh. This group of communist ideology was formed in 1980 by the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Leninist), the Revolutionary Communist League, and another group. Amal Sen was its founder and general secretary.
In 1984, the group split into two factions, with both parties using the same name. One group was led by Amal Sen and the other by Nazrul Islam. The group reunited in 1992. The current president is Rashed Khan Menon. This party is a part of the current ruling 14-party grand alliance. Currently, they hold two parliamentary seats. These are,
Bangladesh Tariqat Federation
Bangladesh Tariqat Federation is a progressive political party registered by the Election Commission of Bangladesh, believing in non-sectarian religious values, spirituality and the spirit of the Great Liberation War.
Bangladesh Tariqat Federation was established in 2005 by Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari. They left the Bangladesh Nationalist Party due to its alliance with Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. They accused Jamaat-e-Islami of supporting terrorism. The Bangladesh Tariqat Federation contested the 2014 Bangladesh general election and also won two parliamentary seats. They are-
Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari Member of Parliament for Chittagong-2 Constituency. He was elected as a candidate of Bangladesh Tariqat Federation in 2014. MA Awal was elected as a Member of Parliament from Lakshmipur-1 Constituency in 2014 as a candidate of Bangladesh Tariqat Federation.
Jatiya Party (Manju)
Jatiya Party (Manju) is a splinter group of Jatiya Party led by Anwar Hossain Manju. The party is registered with the Election Commission as Jatiya Party-JP. Ershad-led Jatiya Party supported the Awami League when the Awami League formed the government as the majority party in the 1996 Bangladesh National Parliament elections, but later joined the four-party coalition.
The then Minister of Communications and one of the leaders of the Jatiya Party, Anwar Hossain Manju, formed a new party opposing Ershad’s decision. The Jatiya Party (JP) wants to hold elections with the boat symbol, leaving the bicycle as the party symbol. Party Chairman Anwar Hossain Manju MP wrote a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner in this regard on Saturday. Manzoor Constituency is in Pirojpur-2
Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) (Barua)
The Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) is a political party in Bangladesh. The party is part of the Left Democratic Front, Eleven Parties and the Grand Alliance. The electoral symbol of this party is the wheel. In 1995, the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party was held and Dilip Barua was elected as the general secretary of the party.
The Seventh Congress of the party was held on 29th March – 1st April 2005 at Mahanagar Natyamanch, Dhaka. In that congress, Dilip Barua was again elected as the general secretary. In the 2009 Awami League ministerial meeting, Dilip Barua, the general secretary of the Communist Party, became a minister.
Md. Arsh Ali, President of the Democratic Party. It was established in 1986. The election symbol is the pigeon. The Democratic Party is a left-wing political party in Bangladesh. The party is affiliated with the Bangladesh Awami League.
Suranjit Sengupta was elected Member of Parliament from Sunamganj-2 Constituency on the nomination of the Democratic Party. In 2001, he resigned from the Democratic Party and joined the Awami League. The former president of the party, Nurul Islam, was in his house before becoming the Grand Alliance candidate for Noakhali-2 Constituency in December 2009. He was caught in the fire and died. There were allegations from his associates and family members that he was murdered.
Announcement of Election Schedule
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) announced the poll schedule via a televised speech on 15th November 2023. During the speech, Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal disclosed that the country’s crucial general election is set for January 7, 2023 (Sunday), with 11,96,91,633 registered voters. The Election Commission will review submissions from December 1-4, accept appeals against nominations from December 6-5, and require nominations to be withdrawn by December 17.
Furthermore, the CEC mentioned that political parties can distribute symbols until December 18, marking the official commencement of the election campaign. The campaign will conclude on January 5. Emphasizing the pursuit of peaceful, participatory, and free polls, the CEC stressed the importance of political parties adhering to the code of conduct and maintaining law and order.
Numerous discussions with stakeholders and political parties have taken place, including dialogues initiated by the EC with different political parties. The CEC, in collaboration with the government, aims for a smooth electoral process, urging all political parties to comply with the code of conduct.
To facilitate the election, the EC will issue a public notification and appoint returning officers (ROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) promptly. The ROs, with the support of AROs, will carry out necessary tasks, empowered by legal authority under electoral laws to ensure a fair election. Additionally, the EC plans to send a demi-official letter to the cabinet division, seeking assistance and requesting that field-level government officers remain in their positions until the election results are published.
EC’s Preparedness to Hold Free, Fair Election
In order to hold the upcoming parliamentary elections in a credible manner, the Election Commission (EC) has made extensive preparations.
Recent amendments to the Representation of the People Order (RPO) have strengthened the Election Commission (EC), granting it the authority to annul the votes from affected centers if irregularities are discovered during post-voting investigations. Additionally, the EC is now empowered to halt the issuance of gazettes.
The updated voter list, which now includes 11,96,91,633 voters, indicates an estimated budget of Tk 1,445 crore for the upcoming polls. This marks a significant increase from the 10,42,38,677 eligible voters during the eleventh national polls, with an additional 1,54,52,956 fresh voters enrolled in the last five years.
Following the poll schedule announcement, the electoral code of conduct has come into immediate effect. The EC is expected to issue directives, instructing aspiring candidates to remove posters, placards, banners, and billboards from public places within a specified timeframe. Election campaigns are prohibited until the last date for candidacy withdrawal on December 17.
Government officials, including ministers and lawmakers, are barred from using government vehicles or utilizing facilities for election-related activities. They are also prohibited from making donations to institutions using public funds.
Additionally, the government is restricted from approving or inaugurating any development projects during this period. Ahead of the schedule announcement, the Chief Election Commissioner convened the 26th EC meeting with other election commissioners to finalize the schedule at his Dhaka office around 5 pm.