Bangladesh opposition alliance demands fresh poll

Special Bangladesh opposition alliance demands fresh poll
A Bangladeshi woman casts her vote at a polling station in the ancient city of Panam Nagar, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Dec. 30, 2018. (AP)
Updated 31 December 2018

Bangladesh opposition alliance demands fresh poll

Bangladesh opposition alliance demands fresh poll
  • ‘No scope’ for new poll, says election chief
  • Opposition won seven out of 298 seats

DHAKA: The opposition alliance Monday rejected the result of parliamentary elections and demanded a fresh poll, following a landslide victory by the ruling coalition.

The Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), won seven seats out of 298 while the ruling coalition alliance, led by the Awami League, seized 288.

The BNP’s secretary-general accused the government of using state resources to secure a win.

“We reject this election and its results. We demand fresh polls under an impartial administration and this must be done immediately,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a news conference.

Another senior BNP figure, Shamsuzzaman Dudu, described the result as a “betrayal of the nation.”

“The election held on Sunday proves that no fair election in the country is possible under a political party government. Since we have rejected the election, the seven members who have won in their constituencies will not take the oath as a member of parliament and accordingly will not join the next parliament,” Dudu told Arab News.

He demanded the government’s resignation and said there would be talks in the opposition alliance about next steps.

But the head of the Election Commission, K.M. Nurul Huda, told media there was no scope for a new poll and denied allegations of vote-rigging. He also said that voter turnout was 80 percent.

The ruling party urged its supporters to show restraint when celebrating the election win, as the opposition geared up to challenge the outcome. 

“Do not exaggerate while celebrating the election victory. Keep everything in the field of politics, do not take any grudge back home with you,” AL Secretary-General Obaidul Quader told a party gathering.  

“We have to focus on work rather than indulge in celebration. There will be ups and downs in politics and we have to keep that in mind and move forward. We have to solidify this win.”

One expert said that all stakeholders should respect the result as a “verdict of the people.”

Prof. Gobinda Chakraborty, of Dhaka University, said the election had been inclusive and that all major players had taken part, even though there were concerns.

“In a developing country like Bangladesh it is very tough to ensure a 100 percent level playing field. Although there were some shortcomings during the electioneering and voting period the opposition should honor the people’s verdict and join parliament,” Chakraborty told Arab News. “No matter what the number of seats in parliament, there is still good scope for the opposition to play a very effective role as a shadow government.”

Transparency International Bangladesh demanded a judicial inquiry over violations of the election code, saying that reports of attacks and harassment of opposition candidates and their supporters was an “ominous sign for democracy.”