AL wants BNP in election, BNP say they won’t join polls under Hasina

The Secretary General of the Bangladsh Nationalist Party or BNP, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, has recently said they won't join the national polls scheduled for late next year under the current regime led by Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina.

His statement came a day after a meeting of the Awami League Central Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the ruling party, in which Hasina said that her party will do everything possible to bring the BNP to the polls. The prime minister also said the entire voting of the next national election will be held using the electronic voting machines, that the BNP refused to accept.

With the two major political parties of the country locked in such a confrontational position, it is certain that the political turmoil is going to get worse in the coming months in Bangladesh.

BNP refrained from the national election in 2014 as their demand for reinstalling a caretaker government provision to oversee the election was denied by the Awami League, which scrapped the provision through a constitutional amendment in 2011. The Awami League and its allies ended up with a majority in parliament without a vote being cast.

That move eventually pushed BNP into further trouble and they were unable to pose a strong challenger in the last election that took place in 2018 - although that too was marred by allegations of ballot-stuffing and booth capture, and sustained violence targeting the opposition in the campaign period.

"We won't participate in the next election if Awami League remains in power," Fakhrul said recently. "We are not thinking about electronic voting, that's not something to heed now."

Fakhrul also said that Awami League never met their promises, and he reckons that they won't do so this time either.

The Election Commission used electronic voting machines in several elections over the last few years, and on every occasion, this process failed to earn the trust of the voters and oppositions. While voters found it tough to use for some technical errors, oppositions said the machines can be fooled to help the candidates of the ruling party.

In the last city corporation election in Dhaka and Narayanganj, many voters were unable to cast their votes using electronic machines. In many cases, voters were unable to vote because the machines failed to recognise their fingerprints. Due to being introduced ion this period of low confidence in elections, the machines have also failed to win the trust of the public.

The last two national elections were marred by lack of participation, low turnout, violence and widespread vote rigging. Political scientists, analysts say the last election in 2018 was not free and fair in any way, and they also fear that if the current regime remains in power, there is little chance of the next election being any different.

In such a situation, the experience of the last two elections and the repetition of the BNP's stance to not go to polls under the current regime foretells further instability in the country's political arena, similar to what it was right after the election in 2014.

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