EC must maintain peace on the ground ahead of the election
An election is certain, but the key question is its outcome. Unlike 2014, the BNP is not in isolation this time. They are joined by left-wing parties and religion-based groups like Islami Shashon Tontro, with Jamaat also lending its support. Despite being unregistered, Jamaat holds significant sway on the ground, making a large-scale protest appear unavoidable. On the opposing side stands the Awami League, backed by its allies. New parties have surfaced as well; their acceptance, as witnessed in recent elections, remains uncertain. My assessment suggests a division, with 50-60 percent of voters on one side and the rest on the other, resulting in a conflicted situation.
While the Election Commission asserts its constitutional obligation to conduct the election on time, concerns arise due to the early announcement of the schedule, raising doubts about its motivations. Presently, they must maintain peace on the ground for the next 53-54 days. The chain of command is also uncertain, as instructions usually accompanying the schedule, such as the announcement of the electoral code of conduct, are conspicuously absent. The chief election commissioner's call for dialogue further implies a recognition of the problematic situation. The country's internal dynamics, compounded by international and economic pressures, have pushed all stakeholders, including the ruling party, opposition parties and the EC, to a point of no return. This holds true for countries pressuring the government to ensure a free and fair election.
The US has persistently underscored its visa sanction measure, leaving room for speculation on the possibility of even harsher actions. The UN, too, has expressed apprehensions about the precarious situation in Bangladesh. The outlook for Bangladesh appears grim as the nation once again grapples with a resurgence of violence, finding itself entangled in the complexities of a burgeoning geopolitical storm.
Brig Gen (retd) Dr M Sakhawat Hussain is former election commissioner of Bangladesh, and senior fellow at the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG), North South University (NSU).
Views expressed in this comment are the author's own.
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