In a televised address on Wednesday, Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal announced that Bangladesh will hold its 12th parliamentary election on January 7, 2023, in all 300 seats. The announcement comes amidst growing concerns of election rigging and escalating political tensions in the country.
Opposition parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have expressed fears of a rigged election and declared their intention to boycott the polls. In response to the announcement, opposition leaders have called for a nationwide strike on Thursday, heightening the risk of increased unrest and potential conflict.
The ruling party, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been in power for the past 15 years and is widely expected to secure a fourth term if the opposition boycott proceeds. Despite overseeing significant economic growth, Hasina has faced criticism for alleged democratic backsliding and accusations of vote-rigging in the previous two elections.
The opposition, consisting of various parties including the BNP and Islamist groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB), has demanded elections conducted by a neutral caretaker government. The government’s response to these demands has been a crackdown on opposition figures, with key BNP leaders and thousands of supporters arrested.
The BNP’s rejection of the polls was reiterated by its spokesperson, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, who, fearing arrest, delivered a press conference online, stating, “An election under this government is a complete lie. We reject this biased election commission.” He went on to warn that the country was being “pushed towards conflict.”
Supporters of the Islami Andolon Bangladesh party staged a protest outside the election commission office, expressing their discontent with the electoral process. While party members claimed participation from over 10,000 individuals, the police estimated the numbers to be around 3,000.
The announcement of the election date follows recent attempts by the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas, to mediate discussions between leaders of the major political parties to break the ongoing political impasse. The United States and the European Union have consistently urged the Bangladeshi government to ensure free and fair elections.
As the nation braces for a politically charged period leading up to the January 7 election, concerns linger about the potential for further unrest and the implications for the democratic process in Bangladesh.
Sources By Agencies