On Monday, supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) took to the streets in several cities across the country to protest against the announcement of a date for the tenth parliamentary election.
In a televised announcement earlier in the day, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said the polls would be held on January 5, 2014. He urged all parties, including the 18-party opposition alliance, to participate in the contest for the 300-seat parliament.
Following the announcement, BNP Spokesman Fakhrul Islam Alamgir issued a statement, saying , “We reject the election schedule. We ask the election commission to suspend the date until a political consensus on election-time government is reached.”
“We won’t take part in any farce in the name of elections,” it said.
BNP and its allies say they will not accept any government with the incumbent premier Sheikh Hasina in charge. Opposition leader Khaleda Zia, who has twice served as premier, has branded the current government “illegal.”
Hasina has scrapped the caretaker system and instead proposed an all-party interim government led by herself to oversee the polls. She also insists that the caretaker government is against the spirit of democracy and the forthcoming election should be held under her Awami League-led incumbent government.
Analysts believe if a compromise on the issue of the caretaker government is not reached soon, there could be more widespread violence.
Bangladesh has a long history of political violence but this year has been the deadliest since it gained independence in 1971. Nearly 200 people have been killed in clashes with the police since the beginning of this year.