Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (C) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2018
0

Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

  • The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
  • The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands.

DHAKA: Thursday’s dialogue between the ruling alliance of 14 parties led by the Awami League and the Oikya Front, the new opposition alliance, received a mixed reception in Bangladesh’s political circles. The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is a key player in the front, said, “We are not satisfied with how the talks went.” However, his close ally, the front leader and Gonoforum President, Dr. Kamal Hossain, said, “We have placed our demands and the Prime Minister will inform us about her final decision later.”
Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of ruling Awami League and the second in command of the party, quoted the Prime Minister, saying, “The door is open and we can sit again later.”
The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands, which included: The formation of non-partisan election period government, the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of the parliament; the release of political prisoners, including BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia, and the withdrawal of false cases filed against political activists; the reformation of the Election Commission and the abandonment of the Electronic Voting Machine for this election, ensuring a level playing field for all political parties; and the deployment of army during the election, to allow the foreign and domestic observers to witness the election process.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately agreed on the two points regarding ensuring the level playing field for all political parties and the presence of foreign election observers.
S.M. Rejaul Karim, Legal Affairs Secretary of the ruling Awami League, said to Arab News, “We had the discussion in a very congenial and cordial environment. The Prime Minister has accepted the issue of a ensuring level playing field and the presence of international election observers during the election, and I think it was a fruitful discussion.”
During the meeting Prime Minister assured the opposition that her government will facilitate the election commission in every way to hold a free, fair and inclusive election, said Karim.
“After the meeting I strongly believe that the opposition will get much more confidence and take part in the upcoming election. As a result the country will experience an election with festivity in a democratic environment,” opined Karim.
However the opposition alliance leader Dr. Kamal said, “The prime minister gave a long speech. But we didn’t find any specific solution there, except for some positive comments about holding rallies and meetings.”
BNP secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam said his party will continue the street protests to achieve their demands.
Islam and his party were disappointed that the PM rejected their demand for the release of Khaleda Zia. She had said that the government could do nothing since it’s a legal matter. Hasina also said that her government did not file the cases against Zia.
Dr. Ataur Rahman, a renowned political scientist and teacher of Dhaka University, said to Arab News, “Although it is not completely satisfying the dialogue has opened the door for the opposition parties and they have got assurances that some of the demands will be fulfilled. Now the opposition should wait and watch the situation.”
He analyzed it as a “wheeling and dealing” situation where both the parties will try to win the maximum gain. “I think in the coming days there will be few more surprises in the political arena till the submission of nomination papers for the election race,” added Rahman.
Kashem Humayun, a veteran journalist and managing editor of Bangla Daily Sangbad, says to Arab News, “Government can’t do anything contrary to the constitution and the situation in this term is quite different from the last election held in 2014. I believe that the main opposition BNP will take part in the election.”
He added: “If any change is required in the constitution that should be done in parliament, and for that reason also BNP should join the election race.”


British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

Updated 55 min 57 sec ago
0

British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

  • Only two months left till UK is supposed to leave the EU, but no final agreement on how exists yet
  • May will make a statement in the parliament Monday afternoon to present her plans on Brexit

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday will try to crack the deadlock over Brexit by setting out proposals in parliament that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union.
With just over two months left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29 there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.
After her Brexit divorce deal was rejected by 402 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament last week, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through parliament.
Attempts to forge a consensus with the opposition Labour Party failed so May is expected to focus on winning over 118 rebels in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government with concessions from the EU.
In a sign of just how grave the political crisis in London has become, the Daily Telegraph reported that May was even considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
The Daily Telegraph said EU sources cast May’s plan a non-starter as a renegotiation of such a significant international treaty would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.
May told British ministers she would focus on securing changes from Brussels designed to win over rebel Conservatives and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, The Times said.
May will make a statement in parliament around Monday afternoon and put forward a motion in parliament on her proposed next steps on Brexit, though some lawmakers are planning to wrest control of Britain’s exit from the government.
After May’s motion is published, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to it, setting out alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.
Parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions of lawmakers supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.
Ever since Britain voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, London’s political class has been debating how to leave the European project forged by France and Germany after the devastation of World War Two.
While the country is divided over EU membership, most agree that the world’s fifth largest economy is at a crossroads and that its choices over Brexit will shape the prosperity of future generations for years to come.
Supporters of EU membership cast Brexit as a immense mistake that will undermine the West, smash Britain’s reputation as a stable destination for investment and slowly weaken London’s position as one of the world’s top two financial capitals.
Brexit supporters cast leaving as a way to break free from a union they see as a doomed German-dominated experiment in unity that is fast falling behind the leading economic powers of the 21st century, the United States and China.