Although the party has continually made allegations of irregularities during the polls, political analysts said a weak organizational structure and lack of leadership also played a role in BNP’s resounding defeat at the hands of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance
The fact that BNP, who left power just 12 years ago, managed to secure only five seats in the 11th general election on December 30 came as a surprise to many people across the country.
Although the party has continually made allegations of irregularities during the polls, political analysts said a weak organizational structure and lack of leadership also played a role in BNP’s resounding defeat at the hands of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance.
Veteran journalist and political commentator Afsan Chowdhury told the Dhaka Tribune: “The 80% of votes cast does not match the real scenario at field level. Awami League may land in trouble, as there is apparently no opposition in parliament, which would make it difficult to ensure accountability.”
“However, the victory seems like a big achievement. BNP could not even become the opposition in parliament, and they are now weaker than Jatiya Party. I think the people’s trust in them [BNP] has decreased, and more people will switch to Awami League as a result,” he added.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of civil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN), said: “The government should hold a fresh election, as the result is unusual in the context of Bangladesh’s politics. The opposition has long been claiming that the election was not held in a free and fair manner, and the Election Commission should look into allegations of irregularities and vote rigging with honesty.”
“BNP is also at fault for their failure in the election. They had a weak organizational structure, weak leadership, and joining Oikya Front did not do anything positive for them. The fact that BNP leaders and activists were riddled with cases did not help either,” the SHUJAN secretary further said.
“Both Awami League and BNP should analyze how this unusual result came about,” he added.
According to political analysts, BNP has been going through a leadership crisis, as party Chairperson Khaleda Zia is imprisoned in a corruption case and acting chairperson Tarique Rahman has long been in exile. In the absence of these top leaders, BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front were not able to specify a probable candidate for prime minister, creating confusion in the minds of the people.
By using election campaigns that centred on calling for the release of Khaleda Zia and re-establishing the people’s right to vote after Awami League won uncontested in 2014, BNP depended on the people’s emotion in the electoral race, without a cohesive plan on how the government would be formed in case they had achieved victory without ensuring the party chairperson’s release, experts said.
BNP joined Jatiya Oikya Front, led by Gono Forum President and eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain, on October 13 last year, after deciding to take part in the polls. The front also consisted of the ASM Abdur Rab-led Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), Mahmudur Rahman Manna-led Nagorik Oikya, and Kader Siddique-led Krishak Sramik Janata League.
Oikya Front sat for a dialogue with the ruling Awami League on October 30, but could not realize their demands for a non-partisan election time government. After electioneering began, the political alliance repeatedly alleged that their campaign rallies were being obstructed by ruling party activists and supporters.
BNP and Oikya Front also made allegations of vote rigging on election day, and claim that the one-sided result proves that the election was held amid irregularities.