On Friday evening the chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda said that the only target of the Election Commission (EC) was now to hold elections with the participation of all parties and he hoped to announce a decision on polls deferral as soon as possible.
‘This [deferral of polls] is an important national issue at this moment. And we will try to resolve the matter as soon as possible,’ Shamsul told reporters when he was asked about the outcome of the discussion with BNP-led alliance delegation of five-members. led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party vice-chairman MK Anwar.
The delegation at the meeting asked the commission to announce a fresh schedule for the general elections setting December 28, instead of December 18, as the polling date and agree to their three point demand: deferral of the upazila polls by a month after the parliamentary elections, repeal of Article 91E of the Representation of the People order to revoke ‘despotic powers’ of the commission to cancel candidature and a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency.
The commission in principle agreed the demand for polls deferral, but it was willing to set the fresh date after discussion with other stakeholders, including the Awami League and the government, said a source in the delegation.
The commission was, however, in a mood to retain its ‘despotic powers’ to cancel candidature, the source said. Withdrawal of the state of emergency is a matter to be considered by the government, he quoted the commission as saying.
A five-member delegation, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party vice-chairman MK Anwar, held the meeting with the election commissioners and discussed their demands. ‘The discussion was friendly and the commission would act fast to decide on the polls schedule,’ Shamsul Huda told the reporters, but declined to give details in the interest of the discussion.
Asked whether the commission will sit with the Awami League and other political parties to reach a consensus on deferral of polls, Shamsul said, ‘Maybe tomorrow.’ ‘Our only priority now is to hold elections with the participation of all parties,’ he said.
The Awami League’s joint general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, however, told reporters on Friday that the party would make public its position on the BNP’s proposal for national polls on December 28 after the caretaker government and the Election Commission makes their decisions on the matter.
Ashraful also said the Awami League was waiting for the government and the commission’s call to a dialogue and the party would show positive response if it received any proposals for talks.
The BNP’s vice-president, MK Anwar, after the meeting with the Election Commission said they had in details discussed the proposals made by their leader, Khaleda Zia, on Thursday.
The BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia announced on Thursday that they would contest the general elections if held on December 28, instead of December 18, if their three demands are fulfilled.
Asked whether the commission had accepted December 28 as the fresh polling date, Anwar said they could convince the commission about the alliance’s position. “We hope the commission will take necessary steps considering our position.”
The BNP’s joint secretary general Nazrul Islam Khan, office secretary Rizvi Ahmed, Jamaat-e-Islam assistant secretary general Quamaruzzaman and law affairs secretary Jasim Uddin Sarker were on the delegation. Election commissioners Muhammed Sohul Hussain and M Sakhawat Hussain also attended the meeting.