Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hasina airs a clear general election message in anniversary address

  • Reazul Bashar
    Published: 2018-01-13 09:04:11 BdST


Bangladesh will go to election this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared and cleared her position on the next parliamentary polls on the completion of four years of her second consecutive term.

In a primetime address to the nation that dominated the airwaves on Friday, she said the year-end parliamentary elections will take place in line with the Constitution, meaning she will be heading the government overseeing the ballot.

She also said an ‘election-time government’ will be formed following a cabinet reboot again this time like in 2013.

The Awami League chief expects all the political parties registered with the Election Commission to fight it out in the crucial ballot.

She alerted the nation to possible attempts of violence ahead of the next parliamentary election.

Photo: PID

Photo: PID


The BNP stayed away from the Jan 5, 2014 elections after seeing its demand for a ‘neutral, polls-time government’ not met and has not made a change of heart.

Hasina has been dismissive of the possibilities of any compromise with the BNP on the election-time government and she made no bones about her intention to not budge from that stance either.

It has left the BNP frustrated. Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir says the prime minister’s speech has pushed the country towards a fresh wave of crisis.

Hasina began with a thank-you to the people for giving her the opportunity to become the longest serving head of the government. She has 14 years to her name in three terms, including nine straight years until now. 

“I have tried my best to live up to the trust and confidence you reposed in me. It is you who will judge whether I have succeeded or failed,” she said.

Her sights firmly set on the vote ahead, Hasina told the nation: “You hold the power. So, it’s you who will have to decide what you want – whether to take the country forward or backward.

Warning the people about what may be in store for them if the Awami League was not running  …Just think in what state the country was in only 10 years ago.”

The prime minister said she did not want Bangladesh to be called a poor nation 47 years after independence, but as a nation that stands with its head high.

“If this is what you want as well, you will always get me by your side,” she told the people.

“Bangladesh is developing because we got the opportunity to serve the people for nine straight years,” Hasina said, stopping short of directly courting votes for an Awami League re-election.

She hoped the next generations will be living in a well-off Bangladesh if all worked together despite differences.

She rattled off a long list of her government’s achievements and development projects that filled around half of her 26-minute speech, also broadcast by state-run radio Bangladesh Betar.

Fiel Photo

Fiel Photo


Election by 2018-end

A year of election is always a year of political tension, violence and uncertainty in Bangladesh.

The Constitution mandates a general election has to be held within 90 days from the last day of the incumbent government. It means the Election Commission needs to organise the next polls between Oct 30 this year and Jan 28 next year.

It will have almost one month in 2019 for the election, but it was clear from the prime minister’s words that the election will take place by the end of 2018.

Election as per Constitution

File Photo

File Photo

Hasina, in her address, outlined how the parliamentary election will take shape.

 “The 11th parliamentary election will be held in line with the Constitution by the end of 2018. It’s clearly stated in the Constitution how the elections will be held,” she said.

As per the Constitution, the incumbent government will be in power until the next government takes charge.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia maintains that ‘the people will not accept’ any election with Hasina in power.

But the Awami League warns that its arch-rival might as well become ‘politically obsolete’ if it did not go to vote under Hasina.

In December, on being asked for comments by journalists, the prime minister all but ruled out the possibility of talks with Khaleda in a bid to bring the BNP to the parliamentary polls.

She referenced her abortive attempt for talks with the former prime minister before the last election and said she does not waste her time on the ‘wrong people’.    

Polls-time government

File Photo

File Photo


The prime minister said an election-time government will be formed before the next polls by reconstituting the Cabinet like in 2013.

She said the polls-time government will cooperate fully with the Election Commission to organise the election.

The explanation on a polls-time government in the Constitution is vague: the  incumbent parliament does not need to be dissolved, only its usual activities are suspended during the election.

Before the 10th parliamentary election, Hasina constituted a tiny Cabinet called ‘All-Party Government’ with members drawn also from the Awami League’s partners.

The BNP refused to join that government that only did the routine jobs.

The party, despite its demand for a non-partisan interim government, has made it clear that it will contest in the next election.

“We are an election-oriented party. We must take part in elections. No one can keep us out of the polls even if they want to. We will join the election,” Khaleda said recently.

Hope for inclusive polls

File Photo

File Photo

In her speech, Hasina hoped all political parties will join the election under the current EC, hailing it for its good show in the civic elections.

“I hope all the parties registered with the Election Commission will take part in the next general election and help democracy continue to flourish in the country,” she said.

President Md Abdul Hamid formed the Election Commission on Feb 15, 2016 through a ‘search committee‘.

The prime minister said the new electoral body has ‘gained the people’s trust’ by holding a number of ‘free and fair’ local government elections.

BNP spokesperson Mirza Fakhrul had also asked all to accept the results of the Rangpur City Corporation election in December, terming it ‘peaceful’.

He, however, had reiterated the party’s stance on the EC, saying it is not capable of holding fair polls due to its partiality.

‘Be alert’

File Photo

File Photo

Hasina warned the people of likely bids to plunge the country into anarchy ahead of the next polls, given the violence unleashed by the coalition of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami ‘in the name of an election boycott’ four years ago.

 “The people don’t want violence. They will not accept damage to their lives and properties during agitation on the pretext of election boycott,” she said in a warning to her rivals.

She said 500 innocent people lost their lives in violent protests by the BNP and Jamaat to prevent the election and thwart war crimes trial between 2013 and 2015.