Dhaka,  Sunday
19 May 2024

Upazila Elections 

Infighting causes discomfort in AL, opposition remains skeptical

Abdur Rahim

Published: 08:12, 18 April 2024

Infighting causes discomfort in AL, opposition remains skeptical

Photo : Collected

In the upcoming upazila elections, candidates from ruling political parties and alliances find themselves uncontested, with at least fifty political parties, including BNP-Jamaat and Islami Andolan, opting out of participation. With only Awami League candidates in the electoral fray, concerns of internal conflicts within the party at the grassroots level have surfaced. Incidents like the recent abduction of a potential candidate in Natore highlight the apprehensions surrounding the electoral atmosphere. Reports of threats and abductions of candidates have emerged from various parts of the country, indicating a tense environment.

Party leaders and activists have voiced concerns over high-ranking officials, including MPs, ministers, and central leaders, exerting influence to secure victory for their favored candidates at the local level, revealing internal disputes within the Awami League. There are also fears of violence erupting in certain areas if control is not maintained centrally.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, including BNP, have raised doubts about the fairness of the elections and have opted to boycott the vote, expressing a lack of confidence in both the government and the Election Commission. They argue that all commissions and law enforcement agencies are aligned with the government, undermining the impartiality of the electoral process.

According to the Election Commission (EC), voting for upazila parishads will take place in four phases, covering a total of 480 upazilas. The first phase, scheduled for May 8, will see voting in 150 upazilas. The second phase is slated for May 21, covering 166 upazilas. Just yesterday, on April 17, the EC announced the schedule for the third phase, which will encompass 112 upazilas. As of now, the schedule for the fourth phase has not been announced.

BNP Vice Chairman Nitai Roy Chowdhury, speaking to the Daily Messenger, criticised the current Election Commission for its failure to uphold the people's right to vote, alleging its allegiance to the Awami League. He expressed concern that the police and law enforcement agencies are also aligned with the government, undermining the impartiality of the electoral process. Roy Chowdhury highlighted the lack of trust in the government's electoral legitimacy, citing the absence of voter turnout in national elections and the ruling party's internal conflicts.

He pointed out that in the national elections, 5 percent of voters did not cast their ballots, indicating a lack of confidence in the electoral process. Roy Chowdhury emphasised that participating in a government lacking the people's confidence is inconceivable, especially when security cannot be guaranteed. 

"We see that many, including BNP, have boycotted the vote, and within this, the ruling party have become entangled in their own conflicts. Where they themselves lack security, who will provide us security?"

Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Maulana Abdul Halim conveyed to the Daily Messenger that Jamaat values the collective will of the masses. He emphasised that the people's sentiment toward the current government became evident during the national elections, where at least 80 percent of the populace abstained from voting. Halim reiterated Jamaat's stance that credible elections are unattainable under the present government and reaffirmed their earlier decision. He personally abstained from participating in the national election and declared his intention to refrain from the upazila election as well.

The General Secretary of the Biplabi Workers Party, Saiful Haque, expressed to the Daily Messenger that the electoral credibility in the country has significantly diminished. He noted that all electoral constituencies have effectively been occupied, highlighting widespread disillusionment among the populace regarding the electoral process. Haque observed that with no substantial competition in the elections, the Awami League is now internally contending to secure territorial dominance. He characterised this internal strife as a struggle for control within their own ranks, likening it to a battle for possession of their own house.

Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbub Ul Alam Hanif conveyed to the Daily Messenger that individuals entrusted with responsibilities have been directed to conduct themselves with utmost accountability. He expressed confidence that no member of the high command would engage in any objectionable behavior by favoring specific candidates. Hanif asserted that even if BNP or any other party chose not to participate, it would not hinder the conduct of credible elections.

Addressing the media, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader stated that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a directive prohibiting any interference by ministers or Members of Parliament (MPs) in the upazila elections. He assured that the elections would be conducted in a free, fair, and impartial manner, with the leadership being fully informed about the proceedings. Quader highlighted the government's efforts to address concerns regarding candidate abductions and ensure control over situations where such allegations arise.