Opposition boycott sets stage for one-sided Bangladesh election

Dhaka, Nov 30 (EFE).– Bangladesh is poised for one-sided election on Jan. 7, as major opposition parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other Islamist political groups, opted to boycott the polls unless the Awami League government steps down for a poll-time caretaker administration.

The deadline for submitting candidatures for the polls was Thursday, but no opposition candidates, including from top leftist parties, appeared in election offices, adhering to their party’s decision. However, contestants from lesser-known parties have filed their nominations.

“We are not joining this election obviously. Unless this government resigns and handover the power to a caretaker government, we will not participate in any election,” BNP spokesperson Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told EFE.

The BNP, the main rival of ruling Awami League, accuses the government of mass arrests, raids against party leaders and activists, torture in custody, enforced disappearances, and imprisonment in fabricated cases in the run up to the election.

For over a year, the BNP has been demanding the government’s resignation and the transfer of power to a poll-time caretaker administration—a demand the Awami League has rejected.

In a statement on Thursday, Rizvi said 18,090 party leaders and activists had been arrested since the party’s thwarted grand rally in Dhaka on Oct. 28.

He also noted that at least 17 people, including a journalist, have been killed in attacks by police and ruling party activists since then.

In a statement on Nov. 26, Human Rights Watch accused senior government leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, of fueling ongoing violence through public statements encouraging attacks on opposition protesters.

“Videos and witness reports show disturbing evidence of coordination between the police and the Awami League supporters in threatening and targeting opposition party activists,” said the rights group.

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader told reporters on Thursday that there was “no space left” for BNP to join the election after the party had made its decision. “The BNP has said their last word… It was the party leaders who wasted that opportunity.”

BNP chief Khaleda Zia has been barred from joining political activities since her conditional release from jail in March 2020.

Her elder son, Tarique Rahman, in exile in London since 2008 and convicted in multiple cases, is serving as the acting party chairman in the absence of his mother.

The police have also arrested BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and other party leaders in recent weeks on charges of violence and arson.

The Awami League and BNP have ruled Bangladesh since 1991, except for a brief quasi-military rule in 2007–08. EFE


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