Lawmakers of the ruling Awami League yesterday nominated acting president and Speaker Abdul Hamid as their candidate for the presidential race. Party sources said that deputy house leader Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, the next possible option, also endorsed the choice and expressed her intention to retire from politics, apparently upset from being left out.
Awami League and its allies hold three-fourth majority in the Parliament making clear that the sixty-nine year old Hamid will be elected the 20th president of Bangladesh.
Hamid has been discharging the duties of the President, as Acting President from March 14. The cabinet, in accordance with constitutional provisions, appointed him in the stead of late president Zillur Rahman who had been dealing with serious health problems. Zillur died while being treated for lung ailments in a Singapore hospital on March 20.
The decision was taken at an AL Parliamentary Party (ALPP) meeting, held at the parliament and led by Prime Minister and party President Sheikh Hasina.
Sources in the meeting said that Hasina started off the meeting saying that there was only one agenda, to select a single presidential candidate.
“We [the party] have already made a selection, but this is the forum to formally select our candidate,” she reportedly said, asking the MPs to propose names for the race.
An AL lawmaker, requesting anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that Hasina also warned that proposals should be for a single candidate, who would be acceptable and non-controversial.
“It would be ideal if one candidate was proposed unanimously, as this would ensure that we would not have to disregard any other suggestions, and we could avoid showing disrespect to any individuals,” the leader of the house reportedly said.
The AL general secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam reportedly took the floor after her and pointed out that the veteran leaders in the room such as Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, advisory council members Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Suranjit Sengupta, should propose the names.
Following Ashraf’s statement, veteran leader Tofail Ahmed nominated Abdul Hamid as the party’s candidate. The proposal was endorsed by Amu, Suranjit, presidium member Abdul Latif Siddique and Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan. They claimed that Hamid is an acceptable candidate, and was unlikely to face any opposition.
Apparently upset by the course of events in the meeting, Sajeda Chowdhury took the floor and described her contributions to the party following the 1975 massacre, and the political changeover of January 11, 2007.
A lawmaker present at the meeting claimed that she became sentimental and quoted her as saying: “The time has come for me to retire. I hope to step down and seek forgiveness for any whom I may have wronged. I do not know when we will meet again.”
“She seemed very frustrated at the time,” the MP told the Dhaka Tribune adding that Sajeda also endorsed Hamid as the party’s presidential candidate.
After she stepped down, Tofail again took the floor and said, “There are many leaders here who have the quality to be the president. But I should have described the contributions of Sajeda Apa before proposing Abdul Hamid’s name. I am sorry.”
Hasina, at the meeting, gave charge of drawing up the presidential poll documents for Hamid to whip ASM Feroz. He along with Abdul Matin Khasru, Fazley Rabbi Miah and Sefugta Yasmin brought the nomination papers.
Acting president Abdul Hamid signed the documents in the presence of the AL chief expressing his interest to contest the polls.
Another delegation, led by Chief Whip Abdus Shahid, submitted the nomination papers to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, the returning officer for the polls. Tofail Ahmed, Food Minister, Abdur Razzaq and Golam Dostagir Gazi accompanied Shahid.
It was also decided in the meeting that the parliament’s deputy speaker, Col (retd) Shawkat Ali, will administrate the oath taking ceremony of the new President.
Hamid is set to become the president if his nomination papers are accepted as none of the other political parties pitted any candidates for the April 29 presidential election.
The CEC told reporters yesterday, “We have received three nomination papers [of Abdul Hamid]. If his nomination is accepted as valid, we will declare him the winner in line with section 7 of the President Election Act 2013.”
The declaration is expected to come after 6pm on April 24, which is the last day for withdrawal of candidature.
Hamid will follow the likes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Syed Nazrul Islam and Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, amongst others, as Bangladesh’s president.
The president has been elected only once since the dissolution of the presidential form of government through the restoration of the parliamentary form in 1991.
The BNP’s Abdur Rahman Biswas, who was speaker of the fifth parliament, was elected as president having defeated Awami League candidate Justice Badrul Haider Chowdhury.