Polls-time govt in mid-October
An election-time government is likely to be formed in mid-October to oversee the eleventh parliamentary polls due in late December.
It will be comprised of up to 30 members, who will come from the parties that have representation in the current House. And like the first such polls-time administration formed before the 2014 election, there will be no technocrat in it, government and Awami League sources said.
“I have had discussions with the prime minister. There will be no technocrats in the election-time government and it will be small in size,” AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader told a press conference at the secretariat yesterday.
He declined to specify the number, but said it would be similar to the one formed before the January 5, 2014 election.
In November 2013, Hasina formed a polls-time cabinet of 29 ministers with MPs from the AL, the Jatiya Party and the Workers Party.
The BNP and its allies, who wanted a nonpartisan interim administration to hold the election, boycotted the polls.
The announcement from Quader comes amid growing calls from the BNP and several other opposition parties for dissolving parliament and forming a neutral government to ensure a free and fair election.
The ruling AL says doing so would be a violation of the constitution.
Mentioning that the Jatiya Party made a request for inclusion of its MPs in the election-time administration, Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, said the PM would consider the matter.
The current parliament has members from Awami League, Jatiya Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Party (JP-Monju), Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF) and Bangladesh Tarikat Federation.
And the cabinet is comprised of 34 ministers, 17 state-ministers and two deputy ministers. Besides, seven advisers and a special envoy (HM Ershad) to the prime minister enjoy minister's status.
Of the full ministers, four are technocrats, meaning they are unelected. The four are Religious Affairs Minister Principal Matiur Rahman, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam B.Sc, Science and Technology Minister Yafes Osman and Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar.
Although the BNF and Tarikat Federation have no representation in the cabinet, their leaders insist they must be included in the polls-time government.
The BNF has one seat in parliament while Tarikat has two.
Tarikat Chairman Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary said election-time government should be formed with all the political parties who have representation in parliament.
“We hope we will be in the polls-time government,” he told The Daily Star last night.
SM Abul Kalam Azad, the lone lawmaker from BNF, expressed the same view. “If the prime minister wants me in her cabinet, I will be happy to be a part of it.”
There is no specific constitutional provision about the formation or the function of a polls-time administration.
But AL leaders said that after the announcement of the polls schedule by the Election Commission, the government will do only routine work and will not make any policy decisions such as project approval, fund allocation and so on.
At the time, the EC will have the authority over the executive branch in line with article 126 of the constitution.
The article says, “It shall be the duty of all executive authorities to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of its functions to the holding of election.”
During this period, for example, there will be no meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Eenec), which approves development projects, said a senior AL leader, who is also a lawyer.
Also, the election-time cabinet will not hold weekly meetings. But they will sit time to time to discuss election-related matters to fulfil EC's requirement, the leader said, asking not to be named.
However, it is unlikely that the BNP will be included in the cabinet as it has no representation in parliament.
The BNP and its allies have been demanding formation of a polls-time government in consultation with all political parties.
They want such a government to be formed in line with the now-scrapped caretaker government system, which was introduced in 1996 after mass protests by the AL, then in opposition.
The BNP, which was in power at the time, initially opposed the idea, although it eventually amended the constitution to incorporate the caretaker government system to oversee national elections.
Under the constitution, the caretaker government, comprised of 10 advisers and a chief adviser, had the jurisdiction to carry out only routine work. Its main job was to assist the Election Commission to hold the election.
That system was abolished in 2011, leading to a political crisis.
Amid growing concerns ahead of the 2014 election, Hasina proposed forming an all-party election-time cabinet, and urged the then main opposition BNP to join it and take ministerial portfolios of its choice.
But the BNP rejected the offer. Defending their decision, some of the BNP-led alliance leaders referred to the PM's absolute power to overrule ministers' decisions.
The crisis remains unresolved till date. With the next parliamentary election just around three months away, the issue of an election-time government still dominates the political scene. The BNP and some other parties continue to demand a neutral polls-time administration.
Contacted, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, BNP standing committee member, said, “Who gave the Awami League the mandate to form an election-time government? It is against the spirit of democracy and against peoples' expectations as people want an all-party polls-time government.”
The BNP leader said the election-time administration should be formed upon a consensus among all political parties.
“If the government forms such a polls-time government without any consensus, it will be questionable and it will not be acceptable to anyone,” he added.
The AL will finalise its candidates by next month, Quader said.
About unconfirmed reports that a list of 100 candidates has already been prepared, he said he was not aware of it. “Even if there is one such list, only the prime minister knows it.”
About the seat-sharing with its allies, he said they could offer their partners some 65-70 seats.
But if the BNP does not join the race, the Jatiya Party will contest the election separately, Quader added.