The Jatiya Oikyafront has urged the international community to take notice of the prevailing electoral atmosphere in Bangladesh where opposition candidates are being frequently attacked.
The opposition alliance told foreign diplomats in Dhaka that at least 70 opposition candidates could not campaign in their constituencies for the December 30 polls.
It handed out a statement to the diplomats at a view-exchange meeting with them at a city hotel yesterday.
Oikyafront leader Dr Kamal Hossain briefed the envoys about the overall situation in the country ahead of the election.
Organised by the alliance, the meeting was attended by ambassadors, high commissioners and representatives of nearly two dozen foreign missions, including that of the USA, India, China, Germany, Japan, Australia and Pakistan.
Dr Kamal, also president of the Gonoforum, told them that around 21,000 opposition leaders and activists were arrested since the announcement of the election schedule, meeting sources told this correspondent.
Following the 90-minute meeting, Kamal told journalists that the observations of the diplomats and what the combine conveyed to them were very similar.
Alleging that police are “abnormally” active, the eminent jurist said, “They are arresting people without any reason. The government is creating a fearful situation. It wants to keep the opposition parties away from the polls.”
Asked whether a fair election is possible under the present Election Commission, Kamal said, “I expressed my concern to him [Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda]. His inactiveness makes us concerned.”
In reply to a query, US Ambassador Earl R Miller told journalists that he hoped the EC would carry out its responsibilities properly.
About electoral violence, the envoy said all parties must avoid violence to maintain a congenial electoral atmosphere.
The combine's statement said, “The current spate of violence that has been launched constitutes another step on the direction of manacling the opposition and tightening the noose of exclusion.
“There is dire danger that all opposition candidates will be targeted one by one either through character vilification, fake news or outright intimidation, even injury. And it appears that the politicised police have taken up the role.”
It further reads, “It is for the international community to take cognisance of a situation where democracy is being derailed by an authoritarian government. At stake is the inalienable right of the people of Bangladesh to franchise and to choose their own representative.”
Pointing out that Oikyafront candidate Reza Kibria left his constituency on December 16 due to insecurity, the alliance leaders told the diplomats that at least 70 opposition candidates could not run polls campaigns. Some of them even could not go to their constituencies fearing attacks.
Some candidates could somehow reach their areas. But they failed to contact voters as their houses were surrounded by “the goons of the ruling party”, said the statement.
It alleged that the entire electoral machinery, including administration, police and magistracy, has been totally politicised by the government.
The alliance said the road to the election is pitted with “serious obstacles, threats, intimidation, and violent attacks on motorcades”.
“These are not stray incidents but controlled and premeditated actions designed to systematically exclude opposition leaders and candidates by [causing] injury and even death,” it said, giving accounts of recent incidents of electoral violence.
While some may consider this election as inclusive and participatory, the electioneering is marred by violence against the opposition, it mentioned.
Claiming that there is no congenial election atmosphere in the country, the combine alleged that ruling party men attacked opposition candidates but police remained silent.
“What a ridiculous lamentation, the chief election commissioner expressed when he finds no obstacle for opposition candidates to run their campaigns. Then it is assumed what kind of election he is going to deliver to the nation!”
Oikyafront leaders provided the diplomats with copies of the manifestos of the combine and the BNP.
BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan, party's Special Secretary Asaduzzaman Ripon, BNP executive committee member Tabith Awal, Gonoforum Executive President Subrata Chowdhury and Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, among others, were present.