Plot thickens as prospects for talks between Bangladesh’s political parties dim

Political analysts say if the major parties remain unyielding, there will be further instability and confrontations, and the already crisis-ridden economy will suffer.

Mohammad Al-Masum Molla and Wasim Bin Habib

Mohammad Al-Masum Molla and Wasim Bin Habib

The Daily Star


File photo of the symbols of the opposing parties, Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party. PHOTO: THE DAILY STAR

November 17, 2023

DHAKA – The political crisis deepens with the Awami League apparently slamming the door on talks and the BNP and its allies pressing ahead with their oust-the-government movement, experts say.

Now that the election schedule has been announced, there is no time for dialogues, said AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader yesterday.

When the polls schedule was announced on Wednesday night, the ruling party and its allies celebrated. But the opposition rejected the schedule and called hartal to press home its demand for polls under a non-partisan administration.

Political analysts say if the major parties remain unyielding, there will be further instability and confrontations, and the already crisis-ridden economy will suffer.

They believe talks can still be held for the greater interest of the country.

“As things stand, the political crisis has deepened. It seems the election will be lopsided. But the situation may change if parties reach a consensus,” says Prof Nizam Ahmed, an expert in parliamentary affairs.

The election schedule is not something absolute; it can be changed if the parties agree, says the former teacher of public administration at the Chittagong University.

Shantanu Majumder, a political science professor at the Dhaka University, says, “When the window for talks is closed, confrontation happens. Dialogue is the only way out.”

While announcing the schedule for the 12th parliamentary election, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal urged the political parties to avoid conflict and find a solution. The political environment has to be conducive to a free, fair and inclusive election, he added.

Even AL’s electoral ally Jatiya Party favours talks.

But at a press briefing yesterday, Obaidul Quader said, “We are in favour of dialogues. The prime minister had dialogues twice with the BNP [before the election] in 2018. She called [BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia] before the 2014 election. But Khaleda Zia verbally abused the prime minister….

“The president has called them this time; the Election Commission has called them. They did not respond. The election schedule has been announced. There is no time for dialogues now.”

Quader then urged the BNP to participate in the election.

“Come. Take part in the participatory elections. The door of the election is open for everyone. I tell the BNP, change your mind and participate.”

The BNP maintains that the government has not created the environment conducive to dialogues.

Political commentators say the demand for a free and fair election is louder this time, compared to the 2014 and 2018 elections that were marred by violence and ballot box stuffing.

Mujahidul Islam Selim, former president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, says, “The election schedule is not the issue. The election-time government is. The government must take an initiative to form an election-time government.”

The election will be a farce if the EC moves forward with this schedule, he adds.

Out of the 44 registered political parties, 20 have rejected the election schedule so far, 15 welcomed it, and the remaining nine have not made their position clear.

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