Bangladesh Jatiya Sansad Polls: Advantage Awami League
Elections for Bangladesh Jatiya Sansad are slated to be held on December 30, less than ten days away. All indications point to the ruling Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returning to power even though the parliament is likely to be more representative than that which was voted in 2014 as main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which had boycotted then is participating in the polls. 39 parties in three groups or alliances are participating in the polls, details of which have been indicated below separately.
Having been in power for ten years now, the Awami League is facing considerable resistance in a large section of the population due to the anti-incumbency factor. This was evident with enthusiasm shown for gaining BNP tickets resulting in a mini stampede in front of the party office in Dhaka.
However, the ruling party’s electoral strategy is woven around the consistent growth of the economy, development and improvement in the MDGs, crackdown on terror and drug mafia (the latter being highly controversial) and the BNP’s alliance with the Jamaat e Islami which supported war crimes in 1971 and is since disqualified.
The opposition led by the BNP, on the other hand, has raised the issue of violence during the campaigning to highlight that there was no level field for the polls. The Daily Star in a report on 20 December indicated that since December 10, there were 96 violent clashes in 45 districts, resulting in the deaths of at least two individuals and scores of injuries. BNP also hopes to capitalise on incarceration of the chairperson Khaleda Zia allegedly on political grounds hoping for voter sympathy.
A member of the Elections Commission of Bangladesh (ECB) Mr Mahbub Talukdar has openly spoken out against level playing field in the elections though this was rejected by the Chief of the Commission Mr Nurul Huda.
Jatiya Oikyafront of which the BNP is the main constituent has highlighted the law and order situation to foreign diplomats in Dhaka claiming that 70 opposition candidates could not campaign in their constituencies for the December 30 polls.
However Inspector General of Police Javed Patwary said the law and order situation for the 11th parliamentary elections is better than ever before. “If the prevailing peaceful situation continues, we will be able to deliver a beautiful election,” he said.
Meanwhile, ECB has rejected candidates of the BNP and Oikyafront Alliance on various grounds. Some of those who appealed to the High Court in Dhaka have failed to gain a reprieve. Thus it is believed that 15 seats of the BNP will be uncontested. The participation of 22 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders contesting the polls with BNP’s electoral symbol “sheaf of paddy” are also awaiting the ECB decision as it is not registered with the Commission.
Some candidates and supporters of the BNP have been arrested by the police for causing disorder amongst other reasons.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina may have endorsed the actions by the police to crack down on some political leader including candidates when she claimed in an election meeting that “the BNP and Jamaat-e Islami are hatching a plot,” to derail the elections. Some key BNP leaders as Enam Ahmed Chaudhury have also switched sides to join Awami League.
While the BNP and Jatiya Oikyafront have demanded permission to field alternative candidates or rescheduling the election in the parliamentary constituencies from where the High Court has disqualified their candidates this is not likely to be accepted by the ECB.
Thus in the 300 seats in which elections are to be held under the First Past the Post (FPTP) system, the opposition could find itself debarred in approximately 15-50 seats leaving the ruling alliance at a clear advantage.
The ruling party has some dissidents but has largely fielded a winning candidate in most constituencies, and thus the Awami League-led alliance has the possibility of winning close to 200 seats.
The Registered Parties
Thirty-nine parties registered by the Election Commission will be able to join the polls with their logos or under an alliance. These are the Awami League-led 14-Party coalition, BNP-led 20-Party Alliance and the Left Democratic Alliance. Fourteen parties are included in the Awami League coalition, eight of which are registered. The registered parties are JaSaD, the Workers Party, the Samyabadi Dal, the Ganatantri Party, the National Awami Party – NAP, the Tarikat Federation and the Jatiya Party-JP. The unregistered parties are the Gana Azadi League, the Ganatantrik Majdur League, the Communist Kendra, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, the Islami Front, Bangladesh JaSaD, the Krishak Sramik Party and the Trinamool BNP.
The other parties of Awami League coalition are the Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JaSoD, Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Jatiya Party-JP, Bangladesh Nationalist Front-BNF, Bangladesh National Awami Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, Gono Front, Bangladesh Islami Front and Ganatantrik Party.
The BNP has formed common front known as Jatiya Oikya Front, the parties include apart from the BNP, the Liberal Democratic Party, Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Bikalpadhara Bangladesh, Jamiyate Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, Jaker Party, Islami Oikya Jote, Jatiya Ganatantrik Party Krishak Sramik Janata League-KSJL, Gono Forum, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal-BaSaD, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, Progressive Democratic Party, National People’s Party, Bangladesh National Awami Party-NAP, United Citizen Movement, Revolutionary Workers Party, Bangladesh Muslim League, Islami Oikya Front Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samayobadi Dal (ML) and Bangladesh Jatiya Party.
The Leftist Democratic Alliance of the CPB, BaSaD and Revolutionary Workers Party is the third alliance.