Bangladesh to hold general elections on January 7: election commission chief

The dates of the 12th general election in Bangladesh was announced during an address to the nation.

November 15, 2023 07:43 pm | Updated 08:47 pm IST - Dhaka

Members of the Islami Andolan Bangladesh, a political party, try to remove barricades as they join in a mass protest march towards the Election Commission, ahead of the election schedule declaration, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 15, 2023.

Members of the Islami Andolan Bangladesh, a political party, try to remove barricades as they join in a mass protest march towards the Election Commission, ahead of the election schedule declaration, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Bangladesh will hold the much-awaited general elections on January 7, the chief election commissioner announced on Wednesday, amidst violent protests by the Opposition BNP and its allies demanding a non-party interim government to conduct transparent polls.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal announced the dates of the 12th general election during an address to the nation that was telecast live - the first such kind of announcement in the history of Bangladesh.

Mr. Awal said the last day to submit nomination papers will be November 30 while scrutiny of nomination papers will be from December 1 to December 4.

The last date for withdrawal of candidature is December 17. The election body will allot election symbols to candidates on December 18.

Mr. Awal also said the election campaign will run from December 18 to January 5, 2024 midnight.

Ahead of the announcement of the poll date, Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday enforced a tight security vigil in the capital and other major cities.

The announcement of dates came amid mounting political tensions as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its far-right allies like the Jamaat-e-Islami have waged a street campaign demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to allow a non-party interim government to conduct the general elections.

The ruling Awami League has dismissed the demand, saying elections would be held under Premier Hasina, who also rejected proposals for dialogue with the Opposition by the U.S. and other major Western countries, calling BNP a terrorist organisation.

Senior BNP leader Mahbubuddin Khokon said the Election Commission would have to shoulder responsibilities for any conflicting situation over the announcement of the polls schedule.

Police on Wednesday, however, warned of stern action against arson attacks or any such act of sabotage as the Opposition began the fifth phase of its nationwide transport blockade to spearhead its campaign against the Hasina-led government “We have taken all steps to ensure security,” Dhaka’s police commissioner Habibur Rahman told reporters.

Since October 28, the opposition parties have been enforcing transport blockades and clashing with police and rival activists in support of their demand.

The political violence in the last two weeks killed at least five people including a policeman. Over 200 people were wounded and dozens of vehicles, mostly empty buses, were damaged or set on fire during the protests, prompting authorities to deploy paramilitary troops to guard highways and maintain law and order in major cities.

According to media reports, some 8,000 opposition leaders and activists, including BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown.

Also Read | Bangladesh police break up anti-PM protest with tear gas, rubber bullets

The government leaders have said that the opposition leaders and activists were not arrested for political reasons, but for their involvement in “criminal activities”.

But the BNP said the Awami League government has turned the country into a “big prison”.

Major Western countries, including the United States, have called for a political settlement ahead of elections through dialogue among three major parties – Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party.

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