Election under AL govt: Twice bitten, BNP now firm on a ‘no’

The BNP boycotted the national election under the Awami League government in 2014. It then participated in the 2018 polls under the AL government. On both occasions, the party gained nothing.

Drawing from the experience, the BNP is now convinced that taking part in another election under this government will amount to nothing more than rubber-stamping another AL government. And so, the party has resolved not to participate in next year's general election unless it is held under a non-partisan polls-time administration.

On Saturday, Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina said the government would make all-out efforts to bring the BNP to the next parliamentary elections.

At a meeting of the AL Central Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party, she also said the next general election would be a participatory one held in a free and credible manner.

She criticised some of her party leaders, saying those who are not confident about their win do not want the BNP to take part in the polls.

Reacting to the AL's plan to bring BNP into the electoral fray, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said there was no question of participating in the election unless the current AL government resigned.

"Our stance is very clear. If the [AL] government does not resign from the office and hand over power to a neutral, interim government, we will not join the national election. We will not join the polls if Sheikh Hasina remains in power," he said at a press conference at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's Gulshan office.

Speaking on the issue, BNP leaders said they had demanded the introduction of a neutral polls-time government in 2014, and then boycotted the elections when the demand was not met.

The party joined the last parliamentary polls in 2018 despite their demand remaining unfulfilled, and was frustrated by the massive vote rigging and ballot box stuffing the night before the election day, they said.

"We have gone through the whole processes -- first boycotting and then participating in the polls. We wanted to give democracy a chance by joining the polls [in 2018] but what we found was another stolen election," Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, the party's standing committee member, told The Daily Star yesterday.

He said the question of them joining the polls comes up before an election, but the election is basically "deception and falsehood" when held under the Awami League government.

Tabith Awal, BNP's mayoral candidate for the Dhaka North City Corporation polls in 2020, said elections must be held under a government formed by consensus, and no single party would dictate the electoral system or the outcome anymore.

"Until there is some visible action, no statements can lead to any positive outcome."

The next parliamentary election is very crucial for the BNP, as it has long been almost absent from the political landscape.

BNP leaders said the party joined the last JS polls to give democracy a chance to thrive, but even after that did not happen, they participated in some local government elections under its electoral symbol of "sheaf of paddy".

But since 2021, the party has boycotted all local government polls, saying free and fair elections are not possible under the current administration and also announced that it would not participate in any election under this government.

BNP is now focusing on introducing a non-partisan polls-time government, for which it has been campaigning over the last decade, but the government did not pay any heed.

Yesterday, Fakhrul also said that after an interim government is formed, a new Election Commission should be constituted based on public consensus.

The BNP did not participate in the process of forming the new EC, sticking to its stance on the need for a neutral polls-time government.

Party leaders said if the government did not meet their demand for a non-partisan interim government, the issue would be settled on the streets.

They said that taking part in polls under the incumbent government would be nothing but giving legitimacy to the elections and the government.


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