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Dhaka Tribune

Islamist parties plan to ride on AL, BNP’s popularity

Update : 20 Apr 2018, 02:52 AM
A number of Islamist parties are planning to join coalitions led by the ruling Awami League and the BNP while some others are reportedly planning to form separate alliances before the national election. Some of these parties have limited activities outside the areas they are based in. Being part of a large coalition will likely guarantee them at least some seats or a share of power if the alliance wins the polls. But other parties say they are planning to contest the election alone. There are 11 registered religion-based parties in Bangladesh. Four of them – Khelafat Majlish, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Islamic Party – are part of the BNP-led 20-party alliance.

The allure of the ruling alliance

Zaker Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, Islami Front Bangladesh, and Bangladesh Islami Oikya Jote are also trying to enter the ruling alliance. Awami League presidium member Mohammed Nasim, also the 14-party spokesperson, told the Dhaka Tribune that several other religion-based parties had also approached them. “We met Islami Front Bangladesh leaders but did not take any decision,” Nasim said. In the 8th national election, the ruling party left a seat for Islami Front’s Sayed Mohammad Bahadur Shah Mujaddedi but he lost. He said he hoped his party would win at least two seats this time. Meanwhile, 14-party member Bangladesh Tariqat Federation has started campaigning and made a list of 120 eligible candidates. Joint Secretary Syed Tayabul Bashar Maizbhandari said they would demand 30 seats to contest. Tariqat is the only Islamic party to have MPs in the current parliament.

New Islamist alliance?

Leaders of several Islamist parties claim that votes of the religious-minded people will help them secure at least 15 seats. Khelafat Secretary General Ahmad Abdul Quadir claimed that Islamist parties were preparing to join the next election as part of an alliance. On the other hand, several Qawmi madrasa-based parties are trying form a coalition. A leader of Chattogram-based hardliner group Hefazat-e Islam said they were backing the new alliance. Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat has made it clear that it will not join the ruling coalition. But it is unclear whether it plans to go alone or be part of a different alliance. Islami Andolan’s Secretary General Maulana Yunus Ahmad said that they are prepared to contest the polls alone. “But we will try to form a coalition with like-minded parties or join a big alliance,” he said, declining to divulge details. The party has already announced candidates for the Khulna City Corporation election and four parliamentary seats in Bagerhat. Meanwhile, Nurul Islam Khan, chairman of Ganatantrik Islamic Andolan, an unregistered party, is trying to form a separate coalition with like-minded parties. He said he was going to form the ‘Islamic Democratic Alliance’ with 15 parties. “We demanded 30 seats from the Awami League. We will join the 14-party alliance if our demand is accepted. Otherwise, we will fight the election on our own,” he added. A senior leader of the party, declining to be named, told the Dhaka Tribune that they were “instructed by the Awami League to form an alliance of Islamic parties.” “We will work for the Awami League and may contest the polls under the ruling party’s banner. But there is also the possibility that our coalition will contest the polls alone if the BNP boycotts it,” the leader said. “But our alliance will work to ensure victory for the Awami League,” he added.
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