DHAKA (Reuters) – An alliance of opposition parties in Bangladesh, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), announced on Sunday its intention to challenge the December 23 general election, despite rejection by the Awami League power of a series of his claims.
Members of Jatiya Oikyafront, an opposition alliance, hold a press conference at the National Press Club to confirm their participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 11, 2018. REUTERS / Mohammad Ponir Hossain
The BNP, which is one of the country's two main parties since 1978, boycotted the last elections in 2014.
In particular, the Jatiya Oikyafront, a 20-party alliance led by Dr. Kamal Hossain, 81-year-old politician and lawyer, had hoped that an interim government would take over in the coming weeks.
The BNP claims that an interim government is essential to holding free and fair elections, failing which it claims that the Awami League will use the machinery of government to support its campaign. The Awami League says the demand is unconstitutional.
The BNP, in disarray after the incarceration of its leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, for corruption, had also requested an interim government in the 2014 elections and had withdrawn after the request was not satisfied.
The last election was marked by deadly violence and rejected by international observers as flawed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda, who have controlled Bangladesh for decades, are fierce rivals and the BNP has said its leader has been incarcerated for compelling reasons.
Hasina is seeking re-election for a third successive term.
"In order to save democracy and continue the movement for a democratic process, Jatiya Oikyafront has decided to participate in the election," Hossain said in a statement after several days of deliberation. the members of the alliance.
The alliance will fight for the 300 seats in parliament elected directly. Hossain said that he would not seek to hold a public office, so it's hard to know who would become prime minister if the alliance won the elections.
RULE OF AUTHORITY
Hasina's government has earned international acclaim for leaving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar, but critics have decried Hasina's increasingly authoritarian regime. In particular, they attacked it for the government's heaviness in the face of this year's student protests and for its suppression of freedom of expression.
The opposition says it has been told that it could hold public meetings, but alliance officials say that in practice they fear that their demands for assembly will be rejected or that gatherings will be disrupted.
Hossain said the massive detentions of activists before a meeting had been one of the disruption tactics used by the authorities.
Although freedom of assembly is a right enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution, the authorities often prevent demonstrations and meetings from taking place in the interests of national security and law and order.
Hossain asked the government to delay the election for a month to give him more time to campaign, but the request is unlikely to be accepted.
Hasina and the Awami League have the support of most media in Bangladesh, including all major TV channels.
Mahbub-Ul Hanif, deputy secretary general of the Awami League, dismissed opposition concerns over public gatherings, saying she had already organized two such rallies.
He added that there could be delays in granting authorizations when assessing safety and security.
He said the electoral calendar was in the hands of an independent electoral commission.
Hossain, trained in Oxford, was a member of Bangladesh's first government after independence between 1972 and 1975 as Minister of Law, Foreign Affairs and Energy. He also led the process that led to the constitution of the nation.
He has quarreled with Hasina and the Awami League and leads the Gono Forum party ("Forum of the masses").
He strongly criticized Hasina's human rights record and lodged a court case against imprisoned journalist Shahidul Alam, who was arrested for comments on social media during the student rally.
Reportage of Serajul Quadir; Published by Martin Howell and Nick Macfie