Bangladesh poll authority on Monday deferred the date for next month’s general elections by a week to December 30, a day after the country’s main opposition alliance demanded delaying the polls by a month, an official said.
Last week, Bangladesh Election Commission said that the general election will be held on December 23.
Bangladesh’s main opposition BNP, led by imprisoned ex-premier Khaleda Zia, on Sunday said it would participate in the general election next month, after it boycotted the 2014 polls that returned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League to power due to fears of rigging.
“The 11th general election will be held across Bangladesh on December 30,” Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda announced responding to the newly formed National Unity Front (NUF) with jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) being its key partner.
He said the five-member commission decided to reschedule the polls as the NUF proposal “is reassuring to the commission” about their participation in the polls, a dilemma that gripped the nation for months exposing the country’s political course to a state of uncertainty.
“Despite extreme adverse situation Jatiya Oikya Front (NUF) has decided to take part in the election as part of our movement to restore democracy,” convenor of the platform and prominent lawyer Kamal Hossain announced on Sunday.
He, however, added that the Election Commission must defer the polls schedule by one month and “we will announce our decision later unless the demand is met” while BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the decision was “part of our movement”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately welcomed the NUF’s decision saying their “decision will strengthen the democracy…we will jointly contest in the poll to reflect the verdict of the people”.
Ruling Awami League’s general secretary Obaidul Quader earlier said they would have no objection if the commission deferred the election date.
The NUF came up with the announcement three days after the commission announced the schedule setting December 23 for the voting amid an impasse between the government and the main opposition alliance.
The BNP, whose leader 73-year-old Zia is behind bars, abstained from the 2014 polls over fears it would be rigged, allowing Hasina to walk into a second term unchallenged.
But rallying supports of the NUF partners, some left leaning and right-wing groups and individuals, it still insists installation of a non-party caretaker government to oversee the polls.
Experts and political analysts said the opposition was demanding the deferment so the tenure of the current parliament was expired to pave way for a polls time interim government.
The deferment of the polls, however, will not see the expiry of the Parliament tenure but the NUF or the BNP were yet to come up with any reaction after the fresh EC announcement.
Hasina earlier said installation of a non-elected government could create scopes for “third party interventions”, meaning a virtual military takeover like the 2007 when an army-backed interim government was installed amid a political vacuum and unrest.
The BNP remained to be in a state of political disarray as Zia is now serving a 10-year prison term in two graft charges and her elder son and “fugitive” acting chief Tarique Rahman’s is staying in London while a Dhaka court recently handed him down life term imprisonment for masterminding a deadly attack on a political rally in 2004.
The NUF emerged two months ago as an opposition platform and floated a seven-point demand including dissolution of parliament to pave ways for a polls time interim government for holding a credible election.