BNP to join election

November 11, 2018   The Daily Star

BNP to join election

Standing Committee decides in principle, insiders say; 20-party,Oikyafront want polls deferment

The BNP-led 20-party combine and Jatiya Oikyafront have decided in principle to join the upcoming national election but they will request the Election Commission to defer the polls, insiders say.

Senior leaders of the two opposition alliances are likely to meet the EC tomorrow to discuss this and also urge steps to ensure a congenial atmosphere for facilitating their participation in the polls.

They will also express dissatisfaction over unveiling of polls schedule “hurriedly”, sources said, adding that they may send a letter to the EC today seeking time for the meeting.

Top Oikyafront leader Dr Kamal Hossain and BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir will hold a press conference at 1:00pm today explaining their stance on the current political situation.

Besides, the alliance will write to the Election Commission today requesting deferment of the election schedule by around a month, sources said last night.

The commission has fixed December 23 for the 11th parliamentary polls. As per the constitution, the election must be held on or by January 28.

Last night, a number of developments came from separate meetings of the BNP standing committee, the 20-party combine and the Oikyafront, a new alliance of BNP and several other opposition parties.

The BNP standing committee decided in principle that the party, which boycotted the 2014 general election, will join the upcoming polls. The same decision came at the meetings 20-party combine and Oikyafront.

Senior BNP leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain will coordinate the party’s nomination process. He will sign the letters for the leaders who will get the party tickets, insiders said.

At the 20-party meeting, allies were asked to inform the BNP by today whether they want to contest the election with the party’s “sheaf of paddy” or their own symbols.

This instruction is applicable to the components that are registered with the EC.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, on the other hand, sought one day to take decision whether its leaders will contest the polls as independent candidates or with BNP tickets. The party lost its registration with the EC.

Emerging from the 20-party meeting, Liberal Democratic Party President Col (retd) Oli Ahmed told reporters that the combine will make public its stance on participation in the national election within two days.

Tomorrow, the BNP will brief foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka about the current political situation and the outcomes of the two-round talks with the ruling AL-led alliance.

The announcement of election schedule on Thursday put pressure on the opposition to make some crucial decisions over polls without delay. Otherwise, there will be strict time constraints in finalising candidates and seat-sharing among alliance partners, said leaders of the two alliances.

As announced by the EC, November 19 is the last date for filing nomination papers and November 29 is for withdrawal.

Against this backdrop, the opposition parties opted for urging the EC to revise the schedule to have the timeframe for filing nomination papers extended.  In their defence for revising the polls schedule announced on Thursday, the alliance may refer to the previous records, sources said.

In 2008, the election was deferred by 11 days. In the original schedule, the election was scheduled for December 18, but it was rescheduled for December 29 by extending the timeframe for filing nomination papers.

This time the EC announced the schedule much earlier.

After the beginning of the 90-day countdown to the polls, each of the past ECs since 1996 had taken one month on average to announce the schedule. The current EC announced it just after a week since the beginning of the 90-day countdown.

The Oikyafront, which held two-round parleys with the ruling alliance over their seven-point demand including dissolution of parliament before the polls and formation of a neutral election-time government, is still hopeful for a solution to the ongoing political impasse.

At the meetings of the BNP standing committee and the alliances, the leaders agreed that they will continue agitations in the run-up to the election to keep up pressure on the government.

They will also continue protesting the police harassment of its grassroots leaders and activists and filing of “false” cases against them.

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