The Awami League is looking to allow BNP some wiggle room in the upcoming national election to ensure that it is all-inclusive, several senior leaders have indicated.
They say the ruling party is willing to relax its rigid stance regarding its main political opposition to avoid the situation in the 2014 national elections, while providing some leeway to the BNP within constitutional provisions.
However, the ruling party leaders have not specified what kind of leeway may be provided.
They said the ruling party is looking for ways to be flexible in its stance as several countries, including the neighbours, and international agencies want Bangladesh to hold an inclusive election this time.
As the election draws closer, the pressure is likely to intensify, as well as the scrutiny from international observers, they added.
The Awami League leaders are still unwilling to speak openly about this new course of action, but they have been dropping hints. Many have floated the message that if BNP is willing to contest the polls within the existing constitutional framework, they will be given the space.
The ruling party is confident that BNP will not stay away from the polls this time. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Awami League president, has urged the party to ensure all-out preparation for the election, according to sources.
Central leaders who have attended recent party forums said Sheikh Hasina had said at almost every meeting that BNP would be coming to the polls.
They confirmed that all the possible avenues in the constitution will be used to ensure BNP’s participation in the election. The prime minister has therefore cautioned the party for an uphill battle.
When asked about the issue, Awami League Presidium Member Md Abdur Razzak said: “All political parties will receive all the benefits stipulated in the constitution in the upcoming election. The Awami League will supervise the election with the utmost integrity to the constitution.”
Party policymakers, however, said the ruling party would insist in all political dialogues that the constitution be followed.
Awami League leaders say this will be brought up in the Election Commission’s dialogue with the party. If the president hosts a similar dialogue, the party will stick to the same position. Sticking to the constitution entails having the election supervised under Sheikh Hasina’s government.
BNP refused to come to the polls in 2014 in the absence of a non-political polls-time government, which the Awami League removed from the constitution with the 15th Amendment.
The ruling party leaders say they are fully committed to the idea of allowing BNP to participate in accordance with the constitution, and participating in the election would open up new avenues for compromise between the parties. But if BNP refuses to participate in the election under Hasina’s supervision, the government will not take any proactive steps to ensure an inclusive election, they said.
Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif echoed these sentiments as well. He said: “The elections will adhere to the constitution. We will not stray from it. This means that all participating political parties will receive all the benefits outlined in the constitution.”
Joint General Secretary Abdur Rahman said: “Awami League firmly believes in an inclusive election. The election will also follow all constitutional guidelines to ensure inclusiveness. All the prescribed rights in the constitution will be afforded to all the parties under the supervision of the current government.”
This article was first published on the Bangla Tribune.