The ball now in PM's court
Leftist parties in talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last night demanded that parliament be dissolved and the election be held under a neutral caretaker government.
“We have placed our demands. The ball is now in prime minister's court. Everything now depends on her,” said Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim after the dialogue at the Gono Bhaban.
A 16-member Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) delegation, led by Saiful Huq, general secretary of Revolutionary Workers Party, entered the prime minister's official residence around 7:15pm. They came out around 10:30pm.
During the meeting, the LDA team placed an eight-point demand before a 14-party delegation led by Hasina.
The demands also included resignation of the government before the announcement of the election schedule, reconstitution of the Election Commission and not to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the polls, said meeting participants.
During the talks, the leftist leaders told Hasina that the democratic atmosphere in the country was not conducive to holding a free, fair, inclusive and acceptable election. They alleged that ruling party men were enjoying different benefits whereas the rights of opposition men were being curbed.
While placing a written statement, Saiful said opposition men were being barred from holding peaceful programmes. False cases were also being filed against them, several leftist party leaders, who attended the meeting, told The Daily Star.
At least two leftist leaders said Hasina did not clearly say whether the demands would be met. “Rather she [Hasina] said our demands were tougher that those of the BNP,” one of the leaders said.
Ganosamhati Andolon Chief Coordinator Zonayed Saki hoped that the government would take necessary steps to meet the demands.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the prime minister listened to the LDA demands attentively.
Socialist Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Khalequzzaman said though the talks ended with hope, there was uncertainty over the outcome.
Mujahidul Islam said they would participate in the election if any acceptable condition for it was ensured. “We are prepared both to join the polls and boycott it. It all depends on the situation.”
Meanwhile, BSS reported: Hasina during the talks said the country's people and those who believe in the spirit of the Liberation War do not want to see the anti-liberation forces in power again.
“We want a peaceful election in the country and the people to elect their representatives as per their choice”, she said in her introductory speech.
POLLS TO BE FREE, FAIR: PM
Earlier in the morning, the prime minister while holding talks with Islamic parties at same venue assured them that the next general election would be held in a “free and fair manner”.
She also turned downed Bangladesh Muslim League's demand of forming an election time caretaker government, leaders of several Islamic parties told The Daily Star.
Islamic Democratic Alliance leader Misbahur Rahman said that they did not place any specific demand before Hasina.
“We said that a free, fair and good election is possible if the PM wished. We also said that we have confidence in the PM and extended our support,” said Misbahur Rahman, also chairman of Islami Oikya Jote.
Bangladesh Muslim League Secretary General Abul Khayer said they placed demands for dissolving parliament and forming an election-time caretaker government.
“There is no scope for the election-time caretaker government as court has already cancelled the system,” Abul Khayer, quoted Hasina as saying in response to the Muslim League's demand.
Replying to a question about the outcome of the dialogue, Quader said the PM would speak in detail about it at a press conference tomorrow.
Hasina held the talks with leftists and Islamic parties as part of her ongoing initiative to discuss several issues relating to the upcoming polls with political parties.
One day after the 90-day countdown for holding the general election started, Hasina held first round of talks on November 1 with Jatiya Oikyafront, an alliance comprised of the BNP and several other parties.
She has also met opposition Jatiya Party-led United National Alliance at the Gono Bhaban.
BADRUDDOZA WRITES TO PRESIDENT FOR DIALOGUE
Juktafront Chairman and Bikalpadhara Bangladesh (BDB) President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury yesterday wrote to President Abdul Hamid for a dialogue for holding the upcoming general election in a free and fair manner.
“Leaders of the Juktafront are eager to talk with you regarding some important issues” Badruddoza, also a former president, wrote in the letter that reached the Bangabhaban around 10:00am, BDB sources said.
He also urged the president to fix the date for the dialogue by tomorrow as “time is very short”.
AL STARTS SELLING OF NOMINATION FORM ON FRIDAY
An AL press statement yesterday said the party would start distribution of nomination forms Friday ahead of the 11th national elections.
The form will be distributed from the Awami League president's Dhanmondi office from 10:00am on Friday, added the statement.