The BNP-led four-party alliance yesterday announced that it would take part in the parliamentary election if it is held on December 28 but maintained that the government must fulfil three of its key conditions before the polls.
In order for the alliance to run in the elections, the government has to lift the state of emergency completely on the last day of withdrawing nominations, delay upazila polls by a month, and scrap the Election Commission’s authority to cancel candidature, it said.
"We gave the government four proposals for going to the elections, but on November 19 the government said it would consider three of them if we go to the polls on the deferred date of December 28," BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said at a press conference at her Gulshan office last night.
Khaleda came up with the latest stance after back-to-back meetings of the BNP Standing Committee and top leaders of the four-party alliance, ending all speculations and uncertainty over the alliance’s participation in the long overdue ninth parliamentary election.
The chiefs of the components of the alliance were also present at the briefing telecast live on some private television channels.
On Monday, the four-party alliance gave the government 48 hours to meet its four-point demand for going to the election.
On Wednesday, the government said despite its frantic efforts on Tuesday with the alliances led by the Awami League and BNP, the alliances failed to reach a consensus on deferring the polls. It announced that the election would be held on December 18 as scheduled.
In an instant reaction late last night, Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda termed Khaleda’s announcement "positive". He said they would sit with the BNP today to discuss the latest development.
Education and Commerce Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman also said, "It is certainly positive that everybody is showing responsibility."
The AL did not make any official statement on the four-party alliance’s latest stance and is likely to issue one today.
However, AL Presidium member Matia Chowdhury in her instant reaction said Khaleda’s announcement has rendered the holding of the election uncertain again.
The AL-led alliance also has demands similar to those of the four-party alliance: complete lifting of the state of emergency before submission of nominations, delaying upazila polls by a month, and scrapping the Election Commission’s authority to cancel candidature as laid down in section 91(E) of the amended Representation of the People Order (RPO).
The EC has several times informed the government that it is in favour of keeping the RPO section, which both the electoral alliances are demanding to be repealed. They said they would also leave it up to the government to decide on the two alliances’ demand for deferring the upazila polls.
EC sources last night told The Daily Star that they might request the government to talk with the AL to know about its position on the four-party alliance’s latest stance.
In a jam-packed news briefing, Khaleda said the EC has lost its neutrality and therefore cannot be empowered with the power to cancel candidature.
"We asked the government and the Election Commission to set a congenial atmosphere for the elections because elections cannot be free and fair under the state of emergency," she said.
The former prime minister complained that while nobody contacted the BNP for discussion, the government was visited by a number of "influential" and "powerful" individuals on Wednesday after which it came up with the "thoughtless" announcement of holding the election on December 18.
"This has surprised, disappointed and saddened the people. The people of this country have not waited two years for a one-sided, stage-managed election," Khaleda said, alleging that the government is working for one particular party.
"I am calling on the government to retract its one-sided declaration and arrange a participatory, free, fair and neutral election," she said.
She said everyone has to take decisions carefully this time so that no one can question the neutrality of the armed forces.
Khaleda expressed dissatisfaction over the government’s failure to implement any of the four-party alliance’s seven demands and the EC’s announcement of the election schedule without consultation.
She also alleged that her family was forced to leave the country and stay away from politics.
A few BNP leaders, who think that boycotting the polls will be a wrong decision, had been mounting pressure on the BNP chairperson for reaching an agreement with the government on participating in the election whenever it is held, insiders said.
They told The Daily Star that both the government and BNP yesterday unofficially contacted each other to settle the issue.
The government side categorically informed BNP leaders that they would consider delaying the polls by 10 days only if the BNP officially announces to take part in the poll.
Many leaders and activists of the four-party alliance gathered in front of the BNP chairperson’s office to hear the declaration yesterday. They became joyous at the declaration of the alliance’s participating in the election and showed victory signs and chanted party slogans.