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Bangla Opposition in poll ring unlike 2014

Hasina was offered a virtual walkover in the elections held in January 2014 as the BNP had boycotted the polls

Our Special Correspondent Calcutta Published 11.11.18, 08:12 PM
Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina Telegraph file picture

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Sunday formally announced its decision to take part in the December 23 parliamentary polls, the declaration ending speculation in Dhaka on whether the country would have a participatory election process.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was offered a virtual walkover in the elections held in January 2014 as the BNP had boycotted the polls after its demand for elections under a caretaker government was not met.


By forming the National Unity Front, an alliance of Opposition parties, the BNP, which ruled Bangladesh for two terms since the return of democracy in 1991, had rolled out a similar demand, along with a few others such as the release of its jailed chairperson and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, as preconditions for joining the polls.

Khaleda Zia

Khaleda Zia Telegraph file picture

The two-time Premier is behind bars on corruption charges while her son Tareq Zia, a co-accused in the cases, is in exile in London.

The demands were discussed at two meetings the fledgling Opposition platform leaders held with Hasina, but none of them has been met yet.

“Till now, none of the demands of the BNP has been met. Still they have announced the decision to join the polls…. This is good for democracy,” said an observer in Dhaka.

The BNP, however, has urged the Election Commission to defer the polls, scheduled on December 23, by a month.

Sources familiar with developments in Dhaka said the poll panel might consider the plea, but the election date is unlikely to be pushed back beyond 10 days. The ruling Awami League has left the matter to the commission.

Amid a fresh wave of conjecture on what prompted the BNP to decide to join the polls, sources in the Awami League said the announcement by its principal rival was a relief.

“If the main Opposition party stays away from national elections two successive times, it’s indeed an embarrassment…. We all knew that they would have to join the polls, but we were waiting for the announcement,” said a source.

The BNP will start distributing nomination papers among aspirants from Monday. It has informed the poll panel that its 20-party alliance will be contesting the elections under the sheaf of paddy symbol.

Some media outlets in Dhaka reported that a section in the BNP was not in favour of taking part in the polls unless the demands were fulfilled.

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