Ershad back-flips | The Daily Star
12:57 AM, December 04, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:04 AM, December 04, 2013

Ershad back-flips

Finds 'environment not right' to join polls

ershadIn a sudden move, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad yesterday said his party would not take part in the January 5 polls as the atmosphere for an inclusive election is absent.
"The Jatiya Party will not contest the 10th parliamentary election as all political parties have not yet submitted nomination papers for the polls," the former military dictator said at a hurriedly called press conference in his Banani office.
Monday was the last date for the submission.
“All parties are not participating in the election…. There is no atmosphere for a free, fair and inclusive election.  So, I am not taking part in the polls… I have kept my promise,” he added.
Ershad said his party candidates would withdraw the nomination papers.
Asked about the JP leaders who are in the polls-time cabinet, he said he hoped they would resign. However, no decision has been taken in this regard.
Six of his party leaders joined the cabinet while another became the prime minister's adviser.
The ruling Awami League does not seem much worried after this dramatic announcement while the main opposition BNP, though sceptical of Ershad's decision, wants to get instant political mileage from it.
"We don't trust him [Ershad] for his unpredictable character. But his announcement is positive for our movement. And we will get political mileage from it," a senior BNP leader close to party chief Khaleda Zia told The Daily Star on condition anonymity.
BNP Vice-Chairman Osman Faruk said Ershad's announcement proved that there is no atmosphere for a free and fair election.
In a press statement, BNP Joint Secretary General Salahuddin Ahmed welcomed Ershad's quitting the race and urged the government to cancel the polls schedule.
Ershad's U-turn came as a surprise for his party colleagues as they had no prior idea of the decision.
On November 18, Ershad announced the JP would quit the AL-led grand alliance to contest the polls independently.
Many, even JP leaders, now question whether the most unpredictable man in the country's politics would stick to his decision as he had several times changed his mind over participating in the polls.
Kazi Zafar Ahmed, recently expelled JP presidium member, however, said he views Ershad's decision positively and that his “ideological fight” with the JP chairman has seen a partial victory.
On November 23, Kazi Zafar lambasted Ershad for joining the Awami League-led polls-time government, saying the party chairman was “betraying the nation”.
Some senior AL leaders, including Suranjit Sengupta and Obaidul Quader, claimed the former dictator would shift his position soon when the seat-sharing deal is finalised.
The JP had sought more than 100 parliamentary seats in the polls to rise as the main opposition party in the next parliament.
The AL had initially agreed on 70 seats but later offered some 30 to the JP and this annoyed Ershad, according to AL insiders.
"This issue will be settled very soon. And Ershad will change his decision before the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers [December 13]," a senior AL leader told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
If an agreement is finalised, some AL candidates may withdraw nomination papers to leave some seats to the JP, AL insiders added.
As the BNP-led opposition alliance is set to boycott the election, the ruling AL has leaned on the JP to make the election credible.
There is also an allegation that Ershad might have sought Tk 1,000 crore from the AL to contest the polls. He, however, rejected the allegation.
Some BNP leaders yesterday said Ershad's announcement would boost the morale of opposition leaders and supporters.
Besides, the opposition camp is cheered up by the poor participation of political parties in filing nomination papers and the failure of reported government efforts to split the BNP and the 18-party alliance.
Only 20 out of 41 registered political parties filed nomination till Monday. Six of the 20 are ruling grand alliance components.
The number is the lowest since 1991. Even the farcical election in February 1996 was contested by 43 political parties.
Thirty-eight parties took part in the 2008 parliamentary polls, 54 in 2001, 81 in June 1996 and 75 parties in 1991, according to EC documents.
The BNP leaders also said If Ershad finally quits the polls, it will be almost impossible for the government to proceed for the January 5 election.
Even if the JP chief changes his mind a few days later, it will expose the government's desperation to hold the polls anyhow. This will also benefit the opposition parties, they added.

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