Bat­tle of al­liances

FrontLine - - WORLD AFFAIRS - BY HA­ROON HABIB IN DHAKA

The 11th par­lia­men­tary elec­tion is cru­cial for both the Mo­ha­jote, led by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League, and the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party, led by Khaleda Zia, and its al­lies which had boy­cotted the pre­vi­ous elec­tion.

BANGLADESH IS ALL SET FOR THE 11TH par­lia­men­tary elec­tion on De­cem­ber 30. Un­like last time, when the na­tion’s sec­ond largest party, the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP), and its Is­lamist al­lies, boy­cotted the elec­tion, this will be an “in­clu­sive” one. In the elec­tion held on Jan­uary 5, 2014, in as many as 153 seats in the 300-mem­ber Jatiya Sangsad can­di­dates were elected un­op­posed. How­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina com­pleted her sec­ond ten­ure with­out much trou­ble de­spite the ef­forts of the non-par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion, the BNP and the Ja­maat e-is­lami, to oust her from power through street protests and vi­o­lent means.

In fact, a deft po­lit­i­cal move by Sheikh Hasina to meet her arch ri­vals, dis­cuss their de­mands and as­sure them of hold­ing a cred­i­ble elec­tion re­sulted in the op­po­si­tion join­ing the elec­toral process. This at­tempt at di­a­logue, which once was thought to be im­pos­si­ble be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s rigid stances, low­ered po­lit­i­cal ten­sions sub­stan­tially.

For the BNP, join­ing the elec­toral process was more than a po­lit­i­cal com­pul­sion. The party could not gain any­thing by ab­stain­ing from the pre­vi­ous elec­tion. More­over, the con­stric­tion of po­lit­i­cal space for the op­po­si­tion and the party’s own in­ner con­tra­dic­tions made the BNP, led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Khaleda Zia, vir­tu­ally ir­rel­e­vant in the past five years. Re­frain­ing from the elec­tion this time too would have been sui­ci­dal.

MEM­BERS OF THE JATIYA OIKYA FRONT, an op­po­si­tion al­liance, at a news con­fer­ence con­firm­ing their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the up­com­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, in Dhaka on Novem­ber 11.

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