Bangladesh opposition BNP back to political stage: Experts

BNP’s decision to contest the 11th general election with two alliances in its fold, one spearheaded by Dr Kamal Hossain, is seen by political analysts as its real political revival at a time when its chairperson Khaleda Zia is in jail with her election fate hanging in the balance.

“Though it’s not still clear how long it can go, BNP’s decision is highly positive unlike the past which had left it out of parliament. For any political party, it’s always better to remain in the election process, no matter how it’s held,” Dhaka University ex-VC Prof Emajuddin Ahmed told UNB.

He said BNP has taken the right decision as political parties must join election no matter whether it wins or loses. “If the party wins, it will form the government and if it loses it’ll remain as a strong opposition in parliament.”

Dr Emajuddin said politics will be benefited from BNP’s positive decision on joining the election. “I also hope to see a change in politics and political culture through the next general election.”He said now the government and the Election Commission (EC) should play a responsible role so that BNP and its allies can remain in the election race. Emajuddin said the government should immediately stop arresting opposition leaders and activists and free the political prisoners to ensure a level-playing field and restore voters’ confidence in the election process.

Dhaka University’s another ex-VC Pro AK Azad Chowdhury said BNP’s decision to take part in the election is very good news for a participatory election and it may pave a new journey for democracy and politics. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, “That all parties are stepping in to take part in the elections is the news that everyone has been looking forward to. It’ll be viewed as a relief at least for the short term.”

He said this can also be viewed as a new opening for BNP to have itself politically rehabilitated as a party represented in parliament after nearly a decade — first by a state of self-denial by their boycott of sessions throughout almost the whole period of the 9th and by the boycott of the debatable election for the 10th Jatiya Sangsad.

“Since the taste of pudding is in eating, much will, however, depend on how the key stakeholders behave in complying with the rules of the game to ensure the level-playing field,” the TIB Executive Director said.He said the burden is mainly on the Election Commission, but not only. “People will watch how law-enforcement agencies behave and how the administration plays its role. Above all, the crucial factor is whether the political parties, especially the ruling ones, genuinely want people to have their say to determine who’re eventually elected.”

“If the EC shows lack of courage to be neutral, if the administration and law-enforcement agencies play a partisan role, and if political parties play the game deciding by themselves that they’re the ones to be in power whatever may the people’s choice, and to that end involve in preventing the scope of fair completion, then it’ll be anything but election,” Iftekhar added.He said the good news that came as relief today will turn sour and one would then call it a game of selection at best, not an election.

Secretary of Shusashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Badiul Alam Majumdar said BNP and its alliance partners have taken a very good decision which is also a good sign for the country’s politics.“BNP should join the election and they’ve taken the right decision. As BNP has no alternative to joining the election, now Awami League has no alternative to ensuring a credible election,” he said.

With joining the election race, Majumdar also thinks BNP has staged a fresh comeback in politics. “BNP was out of parliament as it boycotted the last parliamentary elections due to its wrong decision. On the other hand, the party couldn’t carry out political activities freely due to repressive acts. So, now the party has got a fresh chance to do politics both in parliament and outside of it as a strong party. I think they should use the chance properly.”

He said now the Election Commission and the government must create a level-playing field for ensuring a credible election.Election expert Dr Tofail Ahmed said BNP has taken the decision as per people’s hopes and aspirations. “It’s news of great relief and comfort for the nation.”

He said now the ball is in the court of the government and the EC to ensure a credible participatory election. “The government and the EC should show respect the BNP’s decision by taking positive steps for creating a level-playing field.

Tofail also said the EC should now defer the election by a reasonable period of time to give BNP and its alliances proper space for contesting the election.Besides, he said, the EC should take strong steps to stop the arrest and harassment of political activists by exerting its power on the administration.

Earlier in the day, BNP and its two alliances –Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-party — announced to participate in the upcoming 11th parliamentary elections as part of their movement to restore democracy, and demanded the election be deferred by one month.

source: UNB