Amid street protests by the opposition BNP and its allies, the Election Commission has announced the schedule of the 12th parliamentary polls, with the voting slated for Jan 7, 2024.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal made the announcement in an address to the nation broadcast on TV and radio on Wednesday evening.
The deadline for nomination submission is Nov 30 while the final date to withdraw candidacy is Dec 17. The commission will scrutinise the nomination papers from Dec 1 to Dec 4.
Electoral symbols will be allocated on Dec 18, which means the candidates will have 14 days to submit nominations. The campaign will continue from Dec 18 to Jan 5. The voting to all 300 seats will be held on paper ballots.
The announcement is expected to meet with intensified protests by the BNP. Party leaders said they will not allow any elections in Bangladesh with the Awami League in power.
The opposition party has been enforcing transport blockades marked by arson attacks targeting buses for over two weeks despite arrests of its central and local leaders over violence.
Meanwhile, the ruling party took out celebratory processions to mark the announcement of the schedule in different parts of the country, including its headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. The Awami League dismissed the demand for stepping down and handing over power to any unelected administration, which it argues will be a violation of the constitution.
As fears of a violent confrontation surrounding the announcement of the schedule have gripped Bangladesh, police have beefed up security in Dhaka and other parts of the country, especially the EC headquarters.
Both sides have refused calls for talks, including the latest bid by the US which has expressed concerns over the fairness of elections, clashes and violence during protests and polls in Bangladesh.
In his address to the nation, CEC Awal urged all to shun confrontation and said the parties need to settle the issues through a political consensus.
“Reaching a consensus and solution through talks isn’t an impossible matter.”