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Political crisis over neutral admin on the horizon

  • Special Correspondent
  • 16 September, 2022 12:00 AM
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Political crisis over neutral admin on the horizon

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The country is apparently heading towards a political crisis over the next general election as both ruling and opposition parties are hell-bent on their stance on the method of holding the polls.

Ruling Awami League wants the election to be held in line with the constitution while the opposition parties, including main opposition Jatiya Party and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), want that it is held under a neutral administration.

While some opposition parties are against the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the polls, the ruling party supports the use of the device.

Under the circumstances, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent remarks on the election-time government and the election road map unveiled by the Election Commission (EC) stating that voting will be held in highest 150 constituencies using EVMs have added fuel to the political row.

Addressing a press conference on her recent India tour on Wednesday, the prime minister asserted that if any party decides not to participate in the polls, it is their own matter. “We want all the political parties to take part in the next general election. If any party decides not to join the polls, it’s their own matter. For that reason, we can’t stop the operation of our constitution. The election will be held as per the constitution so that the democratic process continues,” she said.

The EC also announced the election road map, sticking to its stance on using EVMs in maximum 150 seats.

Against the backdrop, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Thursday said they will not join any election under the current government. “There’s no question of participating in the polls without a neutral administration,” he said, claiming that BNP will win the polls if it is held under a neutral administration.

Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader alleged that the government does not want to hold a normal election in the country. “Losing confidence in itself, the government doesn’t want to hold a normal election,” he said on September 11.

The ruling and opposition parties have locked horns over the caretaker government system as the constitution stipulates that the EC will conduct the polls while the government will extend its all-out support to hold the polls in a free, fair and credible manner and the sitting prime minister will continue to discharge the duty until a new prime minister is sworn in through the election.

But BNP and its right-wing allies have long been asking the government to bring an amendment to the constitution to bestow the authority to an interim administration – as like the constitutional provision of caretaker administration incorporated in 1996 - to oversee the polls.

Meanwhile, the Transparency International Bangladesh on Thursday suggested that the authorities concerned, including the EC, should drastically reform the electoral laws to create a congenial environment and a level-playing field for all political parties during the polls.

The much-talked-about caretaker administration provision was repealed in 2011 in line with an order of the Supreme Court. The SC ruled that the system of interim administration was unconstitutional.

BNP boycotted the 2014 general election after its demand went unmet and the party tried to foil the polls by unleashing anarchy across the country.

The party along with its allies was compelled to join the election in 2018 without its chief Khaleda Zia, convicted in graft cases, to save its registration with the EC.

Disorganised after its chairperson’s imprisonment over the embezzlement of fund meant for orphans, BNP is now trying to bring the party to order before waging an anti-government movement.

And as part of it, the senior party leaders asked their activists to take preparations to make the government give in to their demand for the election-time neutral government.

Ignoring the opposition’s demand for restoration of the neutral administration system, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Wednesday said no election will ever be held under the caretaker government in the country.

“BNP is shedding crocodile tears for the election under the caretaker government instead of working for the people....but, according to the constitution, the general election will be held under the incumbent government," he said, hoping that BNP would participate in the next general election as its existence on the verge of extinction.