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Bangladesh - November 9, 2023

Volatility is a major challenge to control

Farhad Chowdhury: The BNP-Jamaat has been giving strict programs one after the other for the last two weeks, demanding the downfall of the ruling Awami League government and fair and impartial elections under a non-partisan neutral government. In this movement on the streets, ‘Fire Terror’ has raised its head all over the country. Incidents of conflict-violence, bombings, shootings, arson, and brutal loss of life are taking place. If the schedule is announced in this unstable environment, doubts have arisen whether the overall situation will be under the control of the EC.
Therefore, political analysts feel that it is important to bring the unstable political environment under control before the schedule. According to them, the Election Commission has informed a few days ago that the “expected” favorable environment for free, fair and participatory elections has not yet been created. Still, the concerned authorities are making vigorous preparations to announce the schedule.
According to the EC’s target, if the schedule is announced in the second week of this November, they have a maximum of 6 to 7 days. Observers of politics fear that it will be difficult to extinguish the hot street fire in this short time.
Election experts say that quick arrest of vandals is necessary to prevent arson, vandalism and conflict-violence in the political arena. However, after the announcement of the schedule, the law-and-order forces do not have that power. The Election Commission itself has given instructions to revoke that power.
Recently, Election Commissioner Mohammad Alamgir said that if someone is arrested in a previous case after the announcement of the schedule, the Election Commission (EC) will intervene. No political cases or arrests should be made after the announcement of the schedule to make the elections fair and peaceful.
He also said, “According to the constitution, I have taken responsibility under the party government. Police and District Administrators will work as per our word in the election. We do not fulfill the responsibility of police and politics. No new arrests should be made to make the election peaceful. If there is a criminal case, make the arrest first, the arrest should not be made after the announcement of the schedule.
In this situation, the law-and-order forces themselves are now worried about how much it will be possible to handle the ongoing volatile environment before the announcement of the schedule. They say that several top leaders of BNP-Jamaat, who fueled and ordered the arson attacks, have been arrested, but a large number of their second and third leaders are still at large. Who are fueling various forms of vandalism and violence in the absence of frontline leaders. Intelligence investigations which they have already confirmed. In this situation, if they cannot be arrested, it is difficult to control the volatile situation.
However, RAB-police senior officials are looking at this matter differently. They fear that after the announcement of the schedule, their supporting political parties including BNP-Jamaat will become more reckless. They will try to cancel the elections not only through strict programs, but also through various forms of sabotage and violence. They have already prepared a strategic plan by gathering information in advance through intelligence.
According to a responsible source in the police headquarters, the position of the government will change further after the announcement of the schedule. The law-and-order forces will go to extreme lengths to control the volatile situation at any cost. The EC will also publish a code of conduct after announcing the schedule. According to the constitution, the government and the law enforcement agencies will take the necessary steps to bring the general situation under control and create an environment for the election. In this regard, the concerned have been instructed to take necessary measures and preparations in advance.
However, the diplomats of Western countries including the United States of America are trying to resolve the conflict between Awami League and BNP through dialogue before the schedule of elections and bring the unstable situation back to normal level. They feel that time is running out fast. Street violence is on the rise due to political agendas. The situation may worsen if the schedule is announced without consensus.
So, a meaningful dialogue now will pave the way for free, fair and peaceful elections. In this situation, they are also hoping for a compromise at the last moment.
However, the observers of the country’s politics expressed doubts whether there will be any dialogue in the conflicting position of the two parties. In this context, political analyst Mohiuddin Ahmad said, “I don’t see any concession mentality among the political parties.” As a result, I do not see the possibility of dialogue. So, there is danger of more or less violence.
A source close to the diplomatic process said the situation would become more complicated if the schedule was announced too soon. Even if foreigners encourage dialogue between the two major parties to resolve the crisis, they will not mediate in such dialogue.
According to the source, Washington will not take any steps around the election that will seriously damage the overall relationship, as the relationship between the United States and Bangladesh is permanent and multi-faceted. However, a review of incidents of violence may have implications for the application of visa policies.
Meanwhile, several sources of the Awami League and the government have informed that the government will soon implement steps to control the unstable situation created around the agitation and blockade of BNP-Jamaat and their like-minded people. In order to control this situation, efforts are being made to identify those directly involved in violence and vandalism and take action against them, as well as to identify those leaders who are leading or instructing them. They believe that the situation can be brought under control if the perpetrators are identified and action is taken quickly.
Therefore, BNP’s second and third level leaders have also been kept under observation by prioritizing this issue. They are being monitored as a measure to ensure that the workers do not resort to violence on the ground after receiving instructions from them. If necessary, the leaders of these levels will be quickly arrested and brought under the law.
However, the former Election Commissioner Brigadier General (retd.) M Sakhawat Hossainthinks that the announcement of the schedule will not be appropriate without bringing the unstable situation under control. He said, due to constitutional obligation, the EC has to announce the schedule of the next elections at a certain time. But apart from its social and moral responsibilities, favorable election environment should also be taken into consideration before announcing the schedule.
The former Election Commissioner said that the EC has to rely on various organs of the government to create an environment for fair elections. So, they can ask the government to create an environment before announcing the schedule. Because the EC has to determine whether the situation will be under their control if the schedule is announced in such a conflicting environment.
M Sakhawat Hossain also said that it will be difficult to hold the election this time. Because of the worrying situation that has arisen in the international arena around this election, it does not seem that the EC will be able to pass the election like the previous two times.
Similar comments have been made by the editor for good governance Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar. He said that the current commission took responsibility by declaring to gain the trust of the common people. Now common people are getting confused by their statements. How will political parties trust them? They themselves say that the environment has not become favorable for elections. Again, the opposition parties are called to participate in the elections.
Badiul Alam Majumder said that the EC does not have the constitutional mandate to create an unstable situation in the country by announcing the schedule. Article 123 of the Constitution calls for elections to be held within 90 days before the expiry of the term of Parliament. But Article 126 asks the executive branch of the government to assist the EC as per its demand.

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