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Bangladesh - November 22, 2023

Awami League faces big election challenges

Farhad Chowdhury: The ruling Awami League of Bangladesh has started party preparations for the twelfth parliamentary elections, but political analysts believe that the party will have to face many challenges ahead of the elections. Although the party leaders commented that the election field has been prepared by facing all the challenges.
Their hope is that if the election activities of many other parties, including the Jatiya Party, start within 2/1 day, an ‘election-oriented’ environment will be created.
In the first meeting of the party’s election management committee on Sunday evening, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader claimed that after the announcement of the election schedule, people across the country have raised a ‘mass awakening’ wave.
Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, chairman of Janipop, a political analyst and private election monitoring organization, says that the ruling party Awami League will have to face several important challenges before the election is completed.
“The big challenge is to keep the opposition parties out. Awami League has to face several challenges even in taking the country till that election. It remains to be seen how they want to handle it,” he said.
However, another political analyst and Dhaka University teacher Zobaida Nasreen says that the biggest challenge for Awami League as a government party is to create a violence-free, safe and trusting environment for elections, where it will be possible to vote without fear.
However, Awami League presidium member Abdur Rahman says that the election will be crowded with the participation of multiple candidates in each seat and that is why he thinks that people will spontaneously participate in the ‘voting festival’.
Incidentally, according to the schedule announced by the Election Commission, the polling of the 12th National Parliament of Bangladesh will be held on January 7. The agitating parties, including the BNP, have called upon the Election Commission to refrain from ‘one-sided elections’ by rejecting the election schedule and demanding the resignation of the government.
Peaceful atmosphere free from violence
Many small and big political parties including BNP have been carrying out a series of hartal blockades since the October 28 rally was called off due to opposition to the election.
Various incidents of violence including bus fires are also happening around these programs. The parties agitating for elections under a non-partisan government, including BNP, have rejected the election schedule and said that they will not accept ‘one-sided elections’.
In such a situation, if there is no political agreement before the elections, many people are concerned about the situation around the elections.
Zobaida Nasreen says that creating a violence-free environment will be a big challenge for the Awami League before the elections.
“Whatever the government does, people will not come to vote if they do not have a safe voting environment. And if the voters do not come, the election will not be accepted,” he said.
The 2014 elections in Bangladesh took place in an atmosphere of widespread violence amid the exclusion of opposition parties including the BNP. Because of that there was a lot of criticism about the presence of voters in the centers on the polling day.
Although the opposition party participated in the 2018 elections, there were allegations of massive vote rigging in that election. Both elections are widely debated.
Awami League presidium member Abdur Rahman, however, says that people will go to the polling station safely and vote in a festive atmosphere.
“Even if one or two sneak attacks are carried out, it will not have any impact on such a big election. After a few more days, the entire nation will celebrate the election festival. Administration will take appropriate action. If someone prevents people from voting, people will prevent it.”
Handling complaints of unilateral election
Many people think that another big challenge for Awami League is to prevent the scandal of ‘one-sided election’ by bringing most of the parties to the election.
BNP and like-minded parties will not come to the elections under the current government. Jamaat-e-Islami, known as the fourth largest party in the country, is not registered. As a result, it is unlikely that these two alliances and parties will participate in the January 7 elections.
“Participatory and inclusive elections that the international community is seeking have stumbled here. After that, it will be a challenge for Awami League to ensure that all other parties participate in the elections.”
Abdur Rahman, however, says that most of the parties are going to participate in the elections and if anyone does not participate, it is their own decision.
“If someone does not come to the election for fear of defeat, who can bring him to the election? Most of the parties are contesting the polls and every seat will be tightly contested.”
Coordination in groups and alliances
Despite the party and coalition preparations ahead of the parliamentary elections, there is a glimpse of finalizing the candidate for the election by coordination between Awami League, 14-party alliance, Grand Alliance and some newly formed political parties.
Although the Awami League is interested in the elections with the 14-party alliance, apart from some parties that were in the grand alliance in the previous elections, some newly formed parties are also interested in the elections in alliance with the Awami League.
Basically, if BNP does not come, Awami League will come back to power in the election, these parties are interested in keeping ties with Awami League.
“The main objective of the parties that have expressed such interest is to be elected as coalition candidates on the boat symbol. 14 parties are already with Awami League. A new team has expressed their interest. There are multiple parties in the Grand Alliance. Everyone wants to be in the government party. Let’s see how Awami League coordinates them,” said Prof. Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah.
Awami League has now started its candidate selection process on its own and as part of this the process of collecting applications from interested candidates of the party is going on. Besides, they have an agreement with the parties in the 14-party alliance.
The Jatiya Party, part of the Grand Alliance, was the opposition party in the last Parliament. This time also they have started the election process separately. The party is slated to start accepting applications from aspiring leaders for their nomination from Monday.
However, the disagreement between the opposition party leader Roshan Ershad and the party chairman GM Quader is being revealed.
According to information received from Jatiya Party leaders, the GM is keen to single-handedly elect. And the leaders who are with Roshan Ershad are interested in the elections as part of the grand alliance led by Awami League.
It is thought that both parts of Jatiya Party will have to go to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to settle these issues. But if the BNP ultimately does not participate in the elections, the Jatiya Party will participate alone – that much is certain.
Apart from this, Zobaida Nasreen thinks that Awami League may have to face a challenge by handling the conflict within its own party.
“There are many candidates and conflicts within the Awami League. Coalition candidates in many places. It will not be an easy task to create an election environment by handling these.”
Dealing with international pressure
Both Awami League and BNP have responded to the US administration’s letter to create an environment for elections through dialogue before the elections. In response, BNP said it is the government’s responsibility to create an environment for discussion, but Awami League said – now is no time for dialogue.
But even after that, pressure is coming on the government and the ruling party Awami League. The US has threatened trade sanctions if workers’ rights are taken away.
Many people think that the US Secretary of State has given a special indication by mentioning the name of a labor leader of Bangladesh.
ZANIPOP Chairman Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah says that even if the one-sided election is held, Bangladesh may face many steps after the election, but even before that, whether the international community takes any step or not can become an important issue.
“Opposition leader Roshan Ershad raised the issue of President’s initiative for dialogue. If there is something like that, we have to see if anything dramatic happens from there. But the western world is watching that’s for sure,” he said.
And political analyst Zobaida Nasreen says that if the opposition party BNP does not come to the election, it will be important to deal with international pressure or give court to ensure the legitimacy of the election.
However, Awami League leader Abdur Rahman says that the international community has spoken of free, fair and impartial elections and Awami League is also seeking that.
“There is nothing challenging here. We think everyone should participate in the elections and help in fair elections,” he said.

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