10:24 pm - Thursday December 14, 2017

Uncertainty deepens as one more party boycotts Bangladesh polls

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Bangladesh’s Awami League-led grand alliance suffered a major setback on Tuesday when one of its key members announced a boycott of the general elections a day after the main opposition BNP decided against taking part, raising questions over the credibility of the January 5, 2013 polls.

Political violence during opposition protests for postponing the polls continued unabated, claiming five lives on Tuesday and taking the overall toll to 35.

The Jatiya Party, the country’s third largest and a key ally of the Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said it would not participate in the elections, attributing its sudden decision to lack of “proper atmosphere”.

“It’s final that we will not go to the polls,” former President and chief of Jatiya Party, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, told reporters.

“I promised earlier that I will not take part in the elections unless all major political parties contest the polls … I kept my promise,” he said.

“I am not going to contest the election. The country is at the brink of disaster. We’re heading towards uncertainty,” Mr. Ershad said.

The former military ruler said the party candidates who have submitted their nomination papers were asked to withdraw their candidature ahead of last date of withdrawal set by the Election Commission.

Mr. Ershad, who ran the country for nine years after assuming power in a bloodless coup in 1981, has shifted his stance twice — once declining to contest the polls without the BNP’s participation and later revising his decision “in the interest of democracy”.

The main opposition BNP led by Khaleda Zia and its rightwing ally Jammat-e-Islami have already announced their decision not to take part in the polls over the failure to form a neutral interim government to oversee the general elections.

With Mr. Ershad’s announcement, Awami League is the only major party in the fray for the polls, raising questions over the credibility of the election process.

The Awami League and the BNP are at loggerheads over the system for conducting the polls. Prime Minister Hasina has formed a multi-party interim set-up while the BNP wants elections under a non-party interim government.

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