The announcement of the timeline of parliamentary polls has escalated fears of more violent confrontations in Bangladesh’s politics.
With the 12th general election set for Jan 7, 2024, the ruling Awami League has taken out processions to welcome the schedule amid reports of a rise in violence in different parts of the country during the BNP’s antigovernment blockade.
Ideological differences are common in multi-party politics, but if they lead to conflicts and violence, it can harm the voting process, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal said while announcing the schedule on Wednesday.
He emphasised dialogue to reach a consensus, but both sides have so far rejected calls for talks, raising fears of fresh violence.
“Maybe the election will be held with the situation unchanged. The same thing would have happened if the schedule was announced later. Fears over the matter have spread among the people,” said rights activist Khushi Kabir.
“A dialogue should be based on thoughts of holding an acceptable election, but talks can’t be held if you set preconditions,” she pointed out.
Now the public is searching for answers as to whether the BNP will come to the election, or try to prevent the vote like it did in 2014.
The BNP, and the Awami League also, faces a big political test over how they tackle the situation.
Harun-or-Rashid, a retired professor of political science at Dhaka University, said “mass uprising” is required in place of talks when one side starts protesting for a singular demand, like the BNP’s protests for the resignation of the government.
“The BNP could not do that. Now it’s to be seen whether the BNP will take part in the election, or stay out of it," he said, "they must contest in the election because their one-point movement has failed.”
“For the government, the test is to ensure fair polls that reflect the people's mandate.”
Security analyst retired Major Abdur Rashid said it appears to him that the current situation will persist.
“People are worried about whether violence on the streets will escalate, and their livelihoods will be disrupted,” he said.
“There will be violence and arson attacks on buses, which the ruling party will have to deal with. The election will be held amidst all this, causing losses to lives and property.”
Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, an election expert, still sees possibilities of a dialogue.
“Talks can be held even on the eve of the submission of nomination. The CEC said holding an election without everyone’s support is not possible for them. He has called for a consensus.”