The BNP has said the people of the country reject the election schedule and condemned it as a “unilateral” arrangement by the Election Commission.
In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, the party’s Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said: “The Election Commission, which has become subordinate to the government, has announced a joke of a unilateral schedule ignoring expectations and repeated calls from the international community.”
“We denounce the schedule announced by the spineless and biased Election Commission that aims to arrange a farce of an election to violate people’s voting rights as it has done in the past on orders from Sheikh Hasina.”
Amid street protests by the opposition BNP and its allies, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal announced the schedule of the parliamentary polls, with the voting slated for Jan 7.
In his reaction, Rizvi said the EC will have to take the blame for the “extreme political unrest” which will stem from such an “imprudent” decision.
He brushed aside Awal’s promise to hold a “free and fair election” as a “joke with the nation”.
“I think it is a complete lie and hypocrisy,” Rizvi said.
He accused the Awami League of “robbing votes” to stay in power “illegally” for the past 15 years. “People have turned around to respond to their 15 years of tyranny,” he said.
The BNP has launched protests mirroring its 2014 efforts, and violence has erupted across the country. Arson attacks on vehicles and sabotage incidents have again become a major cause for public concern.
It is enforcing another 48-hour blockade for Wednesday and Thursday. This is the fifth round of blockades they have called.
Rizvi reiterated the party’s demand for the prime minister’s resignation and the appointment of a non-partisan caretaker government.
He said Wednesday’s decision made the Awal-led Election Commission “public enemy” like those headed by Kazi Rakib Uddin and KM Nurul Huda in the past.
Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the election would proceed as planned whether the BNP participates in it or not.
“The election is being organised following the rules. The Election Commission is going to hold it according to the Constitution,” he said, adding that there was no two ways about it.
He said a meeting of the Awami League’s election management committee, headed by Hasina, will be held on Nov 17 at the party office in Dhaka.
“We will begin selling nomination forms at the same time,” he said.
The US has called on the three major political parties of the country to engage in unconditional discussion to ensure a free, fair and participatory election.
Donald Lu, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, already sent letters to the Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party calling them to a meeting.
Quader said: “CEC’s speech and Lu’s letter are separate matters. EC did not state that a discussion has to be held for election, neither is it supposed to.”
He said “faith in democratic politics and exercising democracy” was a must in any potential dialogue.
“No one can deny the importance of a dialogue. We’ve had two rounds of discussions with the BNP [in the past]. It’s not that we never did that.
"This time, the president called them but they didn’t come. The Election Commission also asked them to come, but they declined. Discussion can’t be held if only one side wants it. Everyone has to want it.”