Managing Sulking Opposition in Bangladesh | Security Risks Asia Made with Humane Club

Managing Sulking Opposition in Bangladesh

Published Jan 30, 2019
Updated May 18, 2020

The overwhelming success where the Awami League has won 257 seats has become a problem of plenty as it has led to allegations of rigging of the polls. Electoral irregularities like stamping ballot papers the night before the election and ballot stuffing through capturing booths took place in 47 out of 50 constituencies surveyed, says a Transparency International Bangladesh study. Other irregularities include silent role of law enforcers and administrative officers, casting fake votes, barring voters from going to polling stations, forcing voters to cast vote for a specific symbol and barring polling agents to go to centres and so on. The report was rejected by the Elections Commission of Bangladesh. The other challenge for Hasina is assuaging some members of the internationally community such as the United States and the European Union who are demanding investigations in the allegations of electoral violence. To assuage them and also the opposition Hasina has called for national unity, which has been summarily rejected.

The first move was to invite the opposition for tea and Hasian sent separate letters to 23 leaders of the party which participated in the elections and with some of whom she has held meetings before the polls. The main opposition alliance the Jatiya Oikyafront which also includes the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has out rightly rejected her proposal. “There is no agenda in the invitation letter. We do not want to attend the programme for tea only and exchange greetings after a farcical national election [on December 30],” Gonoforum Executive President Subrata Chowdhury said.  Some parties as the Badruddoza Chowdhury led Bikolpodhara Bangladesh has accepted the same thus opening doors for talks with the parties to convince them of the positive intention of the ruling Awami League and the government. This comes after President Donald Trump in his letter congratulating Sheikh Hasina has also called for investigations of allegations of fraud during the polls.

The bitter defeat of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)  and alliance partner Jamaat has led to some introspection by the Party. BNP had formed an alliance with Kamal Hossen-led Oikya Front as BNP leaders realized that the absence of Khaleda Zia during the election would affect them. Begum Khaleda is undergoing one of the many sentences of imprisonment faced by her on charges of corruption and more. The opposition BNP is now appears completely marginalized with only five seats in the parliament, Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and the Vice Chairperson and son of Khaleda Tarique Rehman who is in exile in London awarded long jail sentences.

Two senior leaders Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed who are in the policymaking National Standing Committee, called for reforms at a discussion chaired by Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. “The party must be restructured through a council. The tested leaders and activists who are comparatively more devoted must be brought to the leadership,” Khandaker Mosharraf said in his speech as chief guest. “And we, who have been identified as failed ones, must leave the posts for the youth. Only then can the BNP turn around,” he added as per Daily Star Bangladesh. Nevertheless what future course the party will take for survival as a political entity remains to be seen given the rout in the polls and the complete dominance of the electoral space by the Awami League in the past 10 years now

The BNP decided not to participate in the upcoming upazila election and the by-polls to the vacant mayoral post of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC). BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir stated that a meeting of party standing committee members at BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office had made the decision as widespread irregularities and rigging in the 11th parliamentary election denoted that the elections in the country are not free and fair thus participation was futile.

Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) and several Islamist parties may also boycot the upcoming upazila polls as they do not see any prospect of a free and fair election. The LDA is a combine of eight parties, and Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan and Bangladesh Muslim League and is seen as the third pole so to say in Bangla politics but may opt to stay out leaving the field clear for the Awami League and the Jatiya Party who are now in friendly opposition.

For Sheikh Hasina obtaining a degree of cooperation will provide comfort with the international community but for now this seems unlikely.