Election observers and experts apprehend that the current political situation will hinder creating a level playing field for the next general elections as the ruling Awami League is already well into polls campaign, leaving main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party to put all its efforts into freeing its chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail.
In such a situation, they think, Election Commission needs to play an effective role to ensure a level playing field in politics as well as in poll campaigns.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik finds level playing field totally absent in politics as well as election campaigning.
‘If the current political situation continues for the next month, holding a free, fair and acceptable election will not be possible,’ he fears.
Election Working Group, a platform of 29 election observer organisations, director Abdul Alim tells New Age that ruling Awami League and the EC have some ethical responsibility to ensure a level playing field.
Referring to the Election Commission of India, he suggests that the EC should go to the High Court for directives in this regard as the EC has no authority to take legal action against any party before declaring the polls schedule.
He warns that if the stakeholders fail to address the problem immediately, the situation will deteriorate during the polls, scheduled to be held at the latest on January 28, 2019.
Citizens for Good Governance secretary Badiul Alam Majumder says that the ruling party should allow the opposition to organise its political programme which will help the government as well as the EC to create a level playing field.
He thinks that as a constitutional body the EC needs to address the issue and take immediate initiative to resolve the crisis.
Human rights lawyer Salma Ali reminds that local and international polls observers want a free, fair and peaceful election with participation of all major parties as the last election held on January 5, 2014 was widely criticized as major opposition boycotted it.
Salma Ali, also former executive director of Free Election Movement Association, suggests that the government should be cordial about equal rights of justice.
On February 8, Khaleda was sentenced for five years in a corruption case and sent to jail.
Meanwhile, the ruling Awami League has started campaign for the next general elections with the visit to Hazart Shah Jalal in Sylhet on January 30.
Prime minster and AL president Sheikh Hasina started the election campaign from a rally in Sylhet.
AL president Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to hold rallies in every divisional city of the country.
Moreover, the central AL has formed 17 teams with the central leaders who already started making tours across the country in the current month.
The party teams are holding rallies in the divisional cities and district town as part of the mass campaign as part of the election preparations.
Muhammad Faruk Khan, presidium member of the AL, told New Age, ‘Our party has already started mass campaigns for the next general election scheduled for December.’
When BNP will start their election preparations is for the BNP leaders to decide, Faruk adds.
‘We on behalf of our party AL will not create any obstacle to their programes,’ Faruk says.
‘We shall face BNP politically and if they create any anarchy in the name of peaceful programme, the government and the law enforcers will take action against them,’ Faruk continued.
Asked about the conviction of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, Faruk said they would not make any comment on legal issue.
AL general secretary Obaidul Quader on Sunday at a views exchange prgramme said that the BNP leaders were claiming that their party was more organized and stronger after the imprisonment of its chairperson.
They could take part in the upcoming general election without their chairperson Khaleda Zia, Quader, also the road transport and bridges minster, said.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said that creating a level
playing field was impossible as the AL president Sheikh Hasian, also prime minister, already started electioneering spending public money.
‘As part of blue print of the AL, the government arrested the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in a false case to keep her away from the election,’ he said, adding that people already understood that what the government wanted to do.
On February 14, chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda told a delegation of the members of the European Parliament that it had nothing to do with the candidacy of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia as it solely depended on the court whether she would be allowed to contest the polls.
On Friday, the United Nations expressed the hope that a favourable climate would be created in Bangladesh to hold a free and fair election.
‘…like in any country, it is our principal position that a climate could be created where free and fair elections could take place,’ secretary general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in a regular briefing at the UN headquarters.
He said that they were following the situation in Bangladesh very closely. ‘We’ve expressed our concern.’
On Wednesday a European Parliament delegation urged the Bangladesh authorities to create necessary conditions for inclusive, free and fair general elections.
It observed that political situation in Bangladesh ‘is challenging at this moment’, and hoped that the political situation would become less confrontational and less hostile in the coming months leading to the elections.
Source: New Age.