Election schedule earlier this time
The Election Commission seems to be in an unusual hurry to announce the schedule for the next parliamentary polls.
None of the four previous ECs had come up with polls schedule in such haste since the June 1996 polls.
After the beginning of 90-day countdown to hold the polls, each of the past ECs had taken one month on average to announce the schedule.
This time, things look very different.
The 90-day countdown began on October 31. And according to the constitutional provision, the EC must hold the parliamentary polls on or by January 28.
The commission, led by KM Nurul Huda, had earlier decided to announce the polls schedule on November 4, only four days after the beginning of the countdown.
It, however, refrained from doing so in the wake of a request from Jatiya Oikyafront and the ongoing talks between the ruling and opposition parties.
The EC on the same day said it would unveil the schedule on Thursday.
The demand for delaying the announcement of the polls schedule is getting stronger. Those who are raising the demand have been focusing on a resolution to the ongoing political crisis before the announcement of the schedule.
But Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday categorically said, “There is no scope to defer the announcement of the polls schedule.”
Talking to reporters at a programme in the capital, he however said the date for polling could be delayed if all political parties wanted.
His stance does not match those of his predecessors in regards to announcement of the schedule.
Take for example the 2001 polls. The 90-day countdown to hold the eighth parliamentary election had begun on July 14, 2001 as the seventh parliament was dissolved on the previous day on expiry of its five year term. It was a record as none of the previous parliaments completed a full five-year term.
On July 15, then chief justice Latifur Rahman was sworn into office as the chief adviser in a peaceful transition of power, first time in Bangladesh's history.
The then EC, led by CEC MA Syed, had announced the election schedule on August 19, 35 days after the beginning of the 90-day countdown.
The commission had taken the highest time to announce the schedule although there was no political crisis over holding the election.
When the country was going through political crisis over the parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2013, the then ECs had announced the polls schedules 30 days after the beginning of the 90-day countdown.
On both occasions, the announcement of the schedules aggravated the political crisis resulting in the declaration of the state of emergency in early 2007 and holding a one-sided Jatiya Sangsad election in January, 2014.
In one instance, the EC had taken only a week to announce the schedule for the fifth parliamentary polls in 1991. But the political situation was quite different back then. In the face of a mass upsurge, HM Ershad stepped down as president on December 6, 1990, after dissolving the fourth parliament.
Before his resignation, Ershad had appointed then chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed as vice president. Shahabuddin was a choice of all opposition political parties, including the Awami League and the BNP. After the resignation of Ershad, Shahabuddin performed as the acting president.
As all political parties agreed with the acting president's plan for holding polls as early as possible, the then EC announced the schedule on December 15, nine days after dissolution of the fourth parliament.
The country is now facing an usual political crisis over the next parliamentary polls though there is no violent street agitation like before.
The country is already seeing some positive signs of politics as the ruling and opposition parties have been holding dialogues on the upcoming polls.
The opposition parties fear the situation may get worse if the EC announces the schedule before resolving the crisis through talks.
Talking to The Daily Star, M Hafizuddin Khan, an adviser to the caretaker government in 2001, said he didn't understand why the EC was in a hurry for announcing the election schedule when there was enough time for holding the election.
“There will be no loss on the part of the Election Commission if it waits for several more days to see whether the ongoing dialogue yields any positive result.”
The polls schedule can be announced any day at the end of this month, keeping 40 to 45 day's gap between the announcement of the schedule and the polling day.
Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said the commission might consider deferring the date of announcing the schedule if all political parties reached a consensus on the issue.
“Otherwise, I don't think there is any scope to delay the announcement of the election schedule as there are different occasions like the Christmas Day, New Years Eve, distribution of free textbooks at the beginning of January, and Bishwa Ijtema,” he told The Daily Star.
He said the EC would sit in a meeting tomorrow to finalise the date for announcing the schedule after discussing the latest political developments.