The knots yet to unravel
12:00 AM, November 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:20 AM, November 24, 2018

The knots yet to unravel

AL and BNP sweat over sharing seats with allies as only 4 days left before nomination-filing closes

The last date of filing nomination is just four days away, but the Awami League and the BNP could not finalise their candidates for all 300 seats yet because of disagreements over sharing seats among alliance partners.

The discord centres around the number of seats to be shared among the allies, alliance sources said. 

While the alliance partners, many of them little known, in both camps are negotiating hard to get tickets for as many constituencies as they can, the AL and the BNP are trying to seal the deal with bare minimum.     

Parties have until November 28 to submit nomination papers.

On November 17, three days after AL chief Sheikh Hasina met party aspirants at the Gono Bhaban, the AL Parliamentary Board finalised a draft nomination list for 232 seats out of the total 300.

Though one week has passed since, the party could not finalise a complete list mainly because of the disagreement with Jatiya Party, the main opposition in the current parliament and a key ally in the AL-led grand alliance, according to the sources.

"We hope to come to a decision within a day or two about sharing seats with our partners," AL Presidium Member Abdur Razzaq told The Daily Star yesterday.

The BNP completed interviewing its aspirants on Wednesday, and the party's nomination board finalised candidates for around 250 seats, apparently leaving the rest 50 seats for its partners in the Jatiya Oikyafront and the 20-party, which the BNP leads.

But Jamaat-e-Islami, a key component of the 20-party alliance, collected 61 nomination forms for its candidates and gave the list to the BNP. BNP leaders held a series of meetings with Jamaat to settle the matter, but they failed to reach a consensus, party sources said.

"A BNP team is negotiating with the alliance partners. We hope to resolve the matter in a day or two," BNP Standing Committee Member Moudud Ahmed told this paper yesterday.

After party nomination is finalised, candidates will have to return to their constituencies to submit the nomination papers to the Returning Officers. The ROs will then scrutinise the papers and accept or reject their bid to run in the December 30 polls.

THE JP FACTOR

JP aspirants had collected 2,865 nomination forms. Of them, 780 were called for interviews on Tuesday.

But instead of interviewing them, JP Chairman HM Ershad, a deposed military ruler, asked his party leaders to leave the matter to him.

Ershad, now a special envoy to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, wrote twice to her, requesting the PM to settle the issue. But he did not get any response yet, JP sources said.

“I will make the decision if the party needs to go for another alliance on political grounds," an apparently frustrated Ershad told his party colleagues and nomination-seekers on Tuesday.

Initially, the JP had sought 100 seats, but the AL rejected the demand. The JP then tried to persuade the AL to give it 50 seats. The ruling party is willing to offer up to 35, according to sources in both parties.

The JP leadership is unhappy that the AL is taking this long to settle the matter, party sources said.

Ershad is likely to hold a meeting with Hasina today to discuss it, said JP Secretary General ABM Ruhul Amin Howlader.

"We hope to get 50 to 60 seats and the issue will be resolved by tomorrow [today],” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

GM Quader, co-chairman of the party, said the matter should be settled by today as their candidates needed time to prepare the documents for nomination submission.

10 FOR JAMAAT?

Jamaat leaders cannot contest under their party banner as the Election Commission has cancelled the party's registration following a High Court verdict.

However, they can run as independents or under the banner of alliance partners. Sources say they remain open to both options.

In the past few weeks, Jamaat and BNP leaders sat thrice to discuss seat-sharing.

In the first meeting, the BNP agreed to offer the Islamist party five seats against its demand for at least 40. In the second meeting on Monday, the BNP doubled its offer but Jamaat stuck to its demand. The two allies sat again on Wednesday, but the meeting ended without a decision, BNP sources said.

Jamaat leaders are also in talks with BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, now living in London, by phone, added the sources.

In a recent interview with BBC Bangla, Jamaat Secretary General Shafiqur Rahman said they would like to get 50 to 60 seats.

In 2008, Jamaat contested in 39 constituencies under the BNP-led alliance banner, winning only in two. 

“This time, we hope to get more seats and we will settle the matter through talks,” Golam Parwar, Nayeb-e-Ameer of Jamaat, told The Daily Star recently.

However, a senior BNP leader said that much had changed since 2008. In the current situation, there is no scope to offer Jamaat more than 20 seats.

The BNP also needs to set aside some seats for its allies in the Jatiya Oikyafront and Liberal Democratic Party. In all, it wants to offer 50 seats to its partners.

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