The much-awaited D-Day for holding national elections in the first week of January has buried all speculations around the announcement of the election schedule.
The election is planned to be held when overwhelming senior leaders and thousands of members of the principal opposition party are languishing in prison mostly on trumped-up charges.
The Bangladesh Election Commission on Wednesday evening announced that the nation will go to polls to hold the 12th elections to parliament on 7 January 2024.
The governing Awami League conducted two elections in 2014 and 2018. The election observers have described the election as a sham and tainted with widespread election fraud. Not to speak of pre-election and post-election violence.
The Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina is the longest serving women Prime Minister of Bangladesh in the world and goes into the coveted Guinness World Record.
She first became prime minister in 1996, but lost in 2001 and again swept into power in 2009 and remained in the government since then. She survived several assassination attempts when she was the leader of the opposition.
In the upcoming election, the Awami League needs 151 seats for a majority to form a government.
Hasina upheld the flag of the Awami League after her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and revered as Bangabandhu was assassinated in a military putsch on 15 August 1975.
Since then the country sailed in rough seas, while the nation was governed by three military juntas.
The legacy of the military junta still haunts the country. Two military dictators gave birth to two distinctive political parties, established in the military cantonment under the supervision of the anti-espionage agency Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI).
It is obvious the left, and right opportunist politicians, also lumpen bourgeoisie did not hesitate to walk into the hall of fame. They were absorbed as Members of Parliament through vote rigging and inducted a selected group sworn in as cabinet ministers, which they would have never dreamt of becoming in their lifetime.
Bangladesh’s political history has a glaring example of having a legacy of dynasty politics. Hasina inherited her father’s party. Khaleda Zia took the reign after her husband, a military dictator General Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in 1981.
Third, the “loyal opposition” leader in the parliament is the Jatiya Party headed by Begum Rawshan Ershad, the wife of another military dictator General H.M. Ershad who was overthrown in a mass upsurge in 1990. His brother G.M. Quader is the current chairman of the party.
Hasina’s rule has been plagued with pervasive mismanagement and high-end corruption. Many politicians and bureaucrats have been blamed for money laundering, which is deemed an international crime.
Very few politicians, party leaders and government officers were reprimanded for committing political crimes and amassing huge wealth beyond their regular income.
The United States has repeatedly cautioned that the governing party, opposition, judiciary and bureaucracy would be red-listed for the visa restrictions.
The visa restrictions are usually followed up by Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.
Earlier, America imposed sanctions against top officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) held responsible for extra-judicial deaths and enforced disappearances, alleged by human rights groups.
Angry Hasina demanded why RAB which has a proven record of crushing Islamic terrorism has been sanctioned and urged Washington to withdraw the decision.
The human rights groups admitted that since the USA sanctions on the elite anti-crime force RAB, the number of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances have significantly dropped.
US Assistant Secretary David Lu has made a fresh move to send letters to three major political parties (Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party) for an open-ended dialogue without any conditional agenda.
Well, no political party has yet responded. There is mixed reaction to the invitation for a dialogue. The governing party views the call for dialogue as a ploy for getting the opposition leaders released unconditionally.
Hasina has branded the BNP as a “terrorist party” and rejected any compromise with them.
The announcement of the election date and the government’s refusal to hold dialogue gives a strong message to the opposition, voters and the world community that come what may, the election will held on schedule minus the opposition.
A day before, Jatiya Party, chairman Quader hinted that if the government goes ahead with the elections, Bangladesh will invite another sanction by the USA.
Hours after the announcement of the election date, the opposition BNP vows to resist the election. The Islamist party Islami Andolon (Movement) has expressed solidarity with the BNP’s call for a free, fair and inclusive election under a caretaker government and the resignation of Sheikh Hasina from the position of prime minister.