BNP sees good signs despite polls defeat

The BNP gained huge political mileage contesting the municipality polls as the polls have “exposed that this government and the Election Commission cannot hold free and fair elections”, sources in the BNP said quoting party chief Khaleda Zia.

The party decided to go for softer agitation programmes rather than hartals which often usher in violence.

“Elections pave the way for organising the party as well as create opportunity for many of our leaders and activists, who remained inactive or went into hiding since early this year [2015], to engage in party activities again,” said a BNP standing committee member after a meeting with Khaleda late Wednesday night.

“We knew the election would be marred by rigging, stuffing ballots, capturing of polling centres and that the ruling party would win in most of the municipalities. Despite that, we hoped that the government would lose at least 60 to 70 mayor posts even after rigging the polls,” a member of the BNP central election monitoring team told The Daily Star.

“We didn't participate in the polls with the hope that our candidates would win in 180 or more municipalities. It's true we got only 21 mayor posts but it's not a loss or a cause of shame for us. We actually won as we reached our goal. We have been able to prove to the people at home and abroad that free and fair polls are not possible under the present government,” he added.

A BNP central leader said they had conveyed foreign envoys stationed in Dhaka about the widespread irregularities twice and would formally brief them soon in details.

Despite “plenty of vote rigging and stuffing ballots and other irregularities” in the polls to 234 municipalities, the BNP and the party-led 20-party alliance have decided to go for “positive politics with soft programmes” to protest against the government and the Election Commission.

Khaleda, after a meeting with senior party leaders and chiefs of some components in the alliance, decided not to enforce any hartals fearing it would earn the party a bad name at home and abroad.

“Instead of any hartals, the meeting decided that the BNP would go to people with soft programmes including rallies, discussions, and human chains showcasing the government and the Election Commission's sheer failure in holding a free and fair election, like the January 5, 2014, national polls,” a BNP standing committee member who was present at the meeting told The Daily Star.

The party yesterday instructed its mayor candidates, district leaders, and members of election monitoring teams to report to the party their activities prior to and on election day.

“Through evaluation of their reports, we will be able to assess the condition of the party's grassroots … ,” Emran Saleh Prince, assistant publicity secretary of the BNP told The Daily Star.

“We have also given instruction to all the mayor candidates and district leaders to send documents of widespread vote rigging, stuffing ballots and capturing of polls centres in their areas,” he added. A