Bangladesh will go to polls on Jan 7 amid concerns over fair elections

With some BNP leaders in jail and Khaleda Zia under house arrest, the US  has called for free and fair elections while condemning human rights violations in Bangladesh.

Published: 16th November 2023 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2023 07:39 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Bangladesh is set to hold its 12th general elections on January 7, 2024, announced the Chief Election Commissioner, Kazi Habibul Awal, on Wednesday. The announcement of elections comes against a backdrop of nationwide protests that have resulted in the deaths of four people, including a policeman, and injury to hundreds. The opposition, rallying against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, has made several calls for her resignation and advocated the establishment of an interim government to ensure a fair electoral process.

Nomination papers must be submitted by November 30, with scrutiny scheduled between December 1 and 4. Candidates can withdraw until December 17, and on December 18, election symbols will be assigned, as revealed by Awal in a televised address. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), leading the opposition, insists on a non-party interim government for unbiased elections. BNP’s right-wing allies, Jamaat-e-Islami, have joined the protests, demanding Prime Minister Hasina’s resignation amid corruption and money laundering allegations.

With some BNP leaders in jail and Khaleda Zia under house arrest, the US  has called for free and fair elections while condemning human rights violations in Bangladesh. This stance aims, in part, to counter China’s growing influence in the region. India, too, prefers a government less influenced by China, safeguarding its own regional interests.

Reports indicate the arrest of over 8,000 opposition members and protesters since the onset of protests on October 28. The opposition is expected to persist in demanding Sheikh Hasina’s resignation and the formation of an interim government. The ruling Awami League has dismissed these demands, affirming that elections will proceed under Prime Minister Hasina’s leadership. Hasina has rejected the proposals for dialogue with the opposition, labelling the BNP a terrorist organisation.

Senior BNP leader Mahbubuddin Khokon has held the Election Commission accountable for potential conflicts arising from the poll schedule announcement. Security measures have been heightened across the country, with increased vigilance in anticipation of potential unrest. The election campaign, as per the announcement, is slated to run from December 18 to midnight of January 5, 2024.

Previous polls
The Awami League-led Grand Alliance won a landslide victory in the 2018 general election. The Parliament of Bangladesh, or Jatiya Sangsad, has 350 seats.  Members of Parliament are elected to five-year terms.

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