DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Chief Election Commissioner, Habibul Awal, announced on Wednesday that the country will conduct a general election on January 7, 2023, with 300 parliamentary seats up for grabs. The announcement has raised concerns, as opposition parties have expressed fears of potential rigging and threatened to boycott the electoral process.
In a live television broadcast, Awal urged political parties to engage in dialogue to address the brewing political crisis and ensure a fair and transparent election. Opposition parties, however, responded by declaring a nationwide strike on Thursday in protest, warning that the country is heading towards a potential “conflict.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been at the helm for the past 15 years, is expected to seek a fourth term in office. Although she has overseen notable economic growth, concerns about democratic backsliding and accusations of vote-rigging have marred her tenure. The opposition has called for elections under the supervision of a neutral caretaker government.
Bangladesh Opposition to Boycott General Election
In response to the announcement, the ruling Awami League party, led by Hasina, expressed joy over the election date. Conversely, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other opposition groups, including Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB) party, declared their intention to boycott the polls.
The BNP, a major opposition force, has accused the government of bias and rejected the legitimacy of the election commission. BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, currently in hiding due to fears of arrest, labeled the idea of holding an election under the current government a “complete lie” during an online press conference. “I want to tell the election commission that the country has been pushed towards conflict,” Rizvi asserted.
The announcement of the election date comes after the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas, sought meetings with leaders of major parties in an attempt to mediate the political impasse. The United States and the European Union have consistently called for free and fair elections in Bangladesh.