Political parties in Bangladesh are already warming up for the next parliamentary polls, which are about a year away.
Major alliances led by the ruling Awami League and the BNP have already started taking preparations for the election, with several parties already announcing candidates.
Many aspirants have hit the campaign trails already but officially, the political parties are saying that they do not currently have separate preparations for the polls, which must be held by early 2019.
The main opposition BNP boycotted the most recent election held in January 2014, but it must contest the 11th national polls or risk losing its registration with the Election Commission.
Awami League desperate for a third term
The next election is the main focus of the ruling party, which is trying to retain office for a third consecutive term.
With around one year remaining, the government is focusing on finishing various development works, while the party has turned its attention to improving relations with the electorate.
Ruling party MPs and leaders have been ordered to reach out to the people. The public representatives of the party have also been asked to look after local development works.
The task of scrutinizing and selecting possible candidates is underway, with party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina regularly assessing probable names.
Currently, the incumbent MPs and aspirants are spending more time in their constituencies. The party’s central command has ordered intensifying electoral campaign at the grassroots level.
“The Awami League is taking election preparations at all levels,” Awami League Presidium Member Abdur Razzak said.
“We must take preparations for election as we do not have much time left before the polls.”
The party’s Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the Awami League was “always on a war footing” for an election.
“After an election ends, the Awami League moves forward by taking preparations for the next balloting. This is the party’s characteristic,” he said.
BNP wants fair election
BNP sources said that in order to exert pressure on the government to ensure a neutral election, foreign institutions and states want to remind the ruling party that a repeat of the most recent election will not be acceptable.
In January 2014, the main opposition and its allies withdrew from the nationwide poll over the Awami League’s refusal to ensure a non-party, caretaker government.
Therefore, an inclusive election has to be organized this time.
BNP leaders preparing to contest the poll said candidates would be changed in 100 constituencies. Aspirants are keeping in touch with policy-makers and are frequenting Gulshan, where party chief Khaleda Zia lives.
BNP Vice-Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu said the election was only a year away.
“The BNP is a big, democratic party (so) there will competition among the candidates,” he said.
“It is only natural for election discussions to start now. Whoever talks, irrespective of whether it is within or outside the country, the aim is to urge the government to organize an election following democratic rules.”
Organizing Secretary Sakhawat Hasan Jibon said the BNP has started taking election preparations.
“It is not something that one should see differently,” he said. “All political parties have taken preparations to contest the polls.”
Jatiya Party a step ahead
HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party, the main opposition in parliament, is a step ahead in election preparedness compared to the Awami League and BNP.
In the two previous elections, the party had contested a limited number of seats after reaching a “compromise” with the ruling party.
But this time, Ershad’s party has formally declared its plan to contest all 300 constituencies and has even announced several names in order to “give candidates the chance to strengthen their position.”
The party has said the names of other candidates will be announced gradually.
“Jatiya Party is going ahead with preparations to file candidates in 300 seats,” the party’s Presidium Member and incumbent Member of Parliament, Kazi Firoz Rashid, said. “The preparations have already begun and candidates have been announced for some constituencies.”
Asked about advance release of nominations, he said there was “no other reason”.
‘Early announcement helps candidates run campaigns in their respective areas with ease,” he said.
Other political parties are also busy with election preparations. Allies of the Awami League and the BNP have already initiated talks to share seats among themselves and have reportedly started negotiations with the alliances’ leaders.
Meanwhile, there are attempts to form new alliances ahead of the polls.
The Bikalpa Dhara party of former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury has joined with Kader Siddiqui’s Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Janata League, ASM Abdur Rab’s Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, and Mahmudur Rahman Manna’s Nagarik Oikya to form “Juktofront”.
Separately, an alliance of 50 Islamist parties was formed while former minister Nazmul Huda is leading another coalition dubbed BNA which is trying to negotiate with the Awami League-led alliance.
The next national election must be held between October 31, 2018 and January 28, 2019.
The ruling party wants the balloting to take place in December and informed the Election Commission of its preference during the recent dialogue.
If the EC goes with the Awami League’s suggestion, then the election might be organized in the last week of December.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune