Bid to ensure fair Bangla polls
Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner on Saturday said the law-enforcement agencies would work without bias to ensure free and fair elections in the country on Sunday, but the Opposition continued to question the neutrality of the poll panel.
“If we find any negligence or insincerity on poll duty, we will take legal action after investigations,” election commissioner K.M. Nurul Huda told journalists at Nirbachan Bhaban on Saturday afternoon.
Bangladesh has over 10.4 crore voters.
Despite the assurance from the Election Commission, the Opposition parties expressed doubts about the neutrality of government officials and law-enforcement agencies involved in the poll process.
“The Election Commission in Bangladesh is anything but independent…. The entire election machinery, including administrators, police and the magistracy, has been politicised by the government,” read a statement issued by the National Unity Front, an alliance of Opposition parties.
The statement detailed purported attacks on Front candidates since electioneering began on December 10.
“Seven of our candidates have been arrested since the poll schedule was announced on November 8,” read the statement, which claimed that the candidature of 17 Opposition nominees had been cancelled.
Front convener Kamal Hossain, a jurist, hoped there would be a people’s resistance in the face of odds. “The evil forces will flee…. They can’t fight your strength,” said Hossain, who has been the face of the Opposition alliance helmed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was not as optimistic. Expressing misgivings about the credibility of the elections, he said: “It is not easy to revive this dead democracy as people have lost confidence in the country’s election system.”
Amid the despair in the Opposition camp, a purported statement of jailed BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia surfaced on Saturday afternoon urging supporters to “guard voting centres” and free the country from the Awami League’s alleged dictatorial regime.
“She has urged you to take turns in securing voting centres starting today. After offering fazr (dawn prayers), line up outside the voting centres. After you have voted, make sure you don’t leave the premises,” BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said while referring to the purported statement.
Awami League leaders claimed that such messages were part of an Opposition strategy to derail the poll process as it knew it would be routed.
“They (the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami combine) have a pattern in which they suddenly declare that they won’t continue with the polls…. I would like to tell everyone not to believe the BNP if they say they are withdrawing. These are their tactics to taint the elections,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.