Enayet Karim: Awami League has made all-out election preparations with the aim of winning the fourth consecutive term. The party is also very optimistic about coming to power again through the much-discussed 12th National Parliament elections. Millions of leaders, activists and supporters of the country also have a firm belief that this oldest political party of the country, which led the liberation war, will once again win the battle after one day.
Now it’s just a matter of time. After the end of the election campaign, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said that there has been an unprecedented mass wave in favor of boats across the country. The leaders say that there is a kind of anxiety around the country without BNP, it is right. There is a fear of arson and arson like in 2014 especially around the ‘election boycott’ movement of the opposition parties in the street. Last Friday, an attempt was made to spread panic in several polling stations by firing and exploding cocktails.
However, it is believed that free, fair and peaceful elections will be held with the strict stance of the Election Commission by the administration and law enforcement forces. The policy-making leaders of the party also assured the two foreign election observation teams yesterday. This preparation around the upcoming election started long before. Preliminary preparations including selection of candidates, training of lakhs of polling agents were also going on. This preparation has progressed successfully, with the BNP and its allies facing first the re-establishment of a caretaker government and then a round and fall of the government, most recently the January 7 election boycott movement. The formalities of Awami League’s election activities also started after the election schedule was announced by the Election Commission on November 15. Sale and submission of party nomination forms, finalization of candidature in Parliamentary Nomination Board meeting continues till November. From the first half of December, seat distribution and reconciliation meetings with 14 party partners and Jatiya Party and other electoral allies started and ended on December 17, the last day of withdrawal of candidature.
After the allotment of symbols, the Awami League candidates and their supporters all over the country went on official campaigning from December 18. Awami League also claims that the festive atmosphere surrounding the elections and the spontaneous and enthusiasm among the people have already started in the busy campaigning. Party President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started the official election campaign from Sylhet on December 20 and concluded with a public meeting in Narayanganj on January 4. During this period, Sheikh Hasina addressed the election public meetings of more than 10 districts directly and virtually in the election public meetings of 23 districts and upazilas. Meanwhile, on December 27, the Awami League president also announced the party’s election manifesto with special priority on 11 issues including building ‘Smart Bangladesh’. In the last election speech given to the nation on January 4, the Prime Minister also called on the countrymen to give his party the opportunity to serve the people by voting by boat for the fourth time in a row.
There are 264 Awami League candidates out of 300 seats in this election. 272 people are fighting with the boat symbol with 14 team members. This party, which has been in power for three consecutive terms, has given 26 seats to the Jatiya Party through seat compromise. Earlier on November 26, Awami League announced party candidates for 298 seats except for two seats. Then they withdrew party candidates from 32 constituencies through seat compromise with 14 party partners and Jatiya Party. However, after the cancellation of nomination papers of Awami League candidates in five constituencies due to various reasons including dual citizenship and defaulting of debts, three candidates were returned by appeal. The candidature of the two was ultimately rejected.
Meanwhile, in the face of BNP and its allies boycotting this election, the voting field is very much in favor of Awami League. However, in hundreds of seats across the country, party independent candidates have stood as a thorn in their way to victory. Among independent candidates, there are 19 out of 72 MPs of the 11th National Assembly who are not nominated. 101 non-nominated leaders became independent candidates following the instructions of Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to increase voter turnout in this year’s election without BNP. After canceling the candidature or declaring to ‘withdraw’ from the polling field even after being declared a candidate, the independent candidates of the party still remain as the main rivals of the Awami League candidates in about 90 constituencies. A lot of heat has also spread around the election due to conflict-violence between boats and independent candidates in these constituencies.
Although the election was held with the participation of 27 parties, in the absence of the main opposition party, increasing voter turnout in tomorrow’s election field has become a big challenge for Awami League. The party has taken various steps to overcome this situation. The people of the country have been made aware and encouraged to vote by going to the polling stations through candidates and activists from all over the country. Six lakh leaders and workers of 78 district units across the country have been trained under the ‘Road to Smart Bangladesh’ programme. A target of at least 200 voters has been fixed for all of them. One lakh trained polling agent have also been given special instructions to increase voter turnout.
All in all, Awami League has completed the preparations to make the next election participatory with the spontaneous participation of the people. Through this, the party has an initiative to make the upcoming elections acceptable in the country and abroad. The party’s policy-making leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, have already announced that the January 7 election will be a “milestone” in the history of Bangladesh’s democratic journey.
Unprecedented tide formed in favor of boat
A media center of the party has been set up in the Dhaka district Awami League building in Tejgaon of the capital ahead of the elections. Where the party’s press briefing and other activities will continue till the polling day. Awami League has highlighted the party’s latest position and preparations regarding the election by holding a press briefing at this media center yesterday. Obaidul Quader, general secretary of the party, said that the election is a festival for the people of Bangladesh, a festival of democracy. This time was no exception. Instead, ignoring the severe cold, the people welcomed the election and took part in the campaign. An unprecedented mass tide has been created across the country in favor of boats. He said that many foreign journalists and observers have already arrived. We are encouraged by that. They will observe a participatory election. We hope that these elections will be held in a free, fair and peaceful environment and that they will present their correct image to the world. Awami League general secretary said that people will vote fearlessly in the elections and said that free, fair and acceptable elections will be given on January 7. Everyone will come to the polling station. Anyone who obstructs voting will be deterred. Obaidul Quader also criticized the violence in the name of BNP’s agitation for obstructing the election and expressed surprise that the visa policy of the United States was not applied against them.
Assurance of fair elections
Earlier, the Awami League leaders held a meeting with the election observation team of the OIC countries at the Dhaka district Awami League office in Tejgaon and the Commonwealth delegation at the Sonargaon hotel. In both meetings, they reiterated Awami League’s commitment to make the January 7 election free, fair and acceptable. Under the leadership of Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, Deputy Minister of Education Barrister Mohibul Alam Chowdhury Naufel, Awami League Office Secretary Barrister Biplab Barua, Finance Secretary Wasika Aysa Siddika, Information and Research Secretary Dr. Salim Mahmud, Deputy Secretary Sayem Khan, Central Executive Member Professor Mohammad Ali Arafat, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Centenary Celebration Committee convener Dr. Kamal Abdul Nasser Chowdhury and others. In the meeting, the 15-member Commonwealth Election Observation Team was led by the team leader, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Arthur Bruce Golding, and on behalf of the OIC, the Assistant Secretary to the Organization’s Secretary General for Political, Yusuf Mohammed Al Dubai.
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