The Election Commission is already facing a setback with Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF) ignoring its call to join the dialogue on the next parliamentary election.
The dialogues with the political parties are set to begin on Thursday. BNF was supposed to be the first party the Election Commission was going to sit with on the first day, followed by Bangladesh Sangskritik Muktijote.
BNF, in a letter signed by its chief SM Abul Kalam Azad and sent on Tuesday, told the Election Commission that they would not be able to join the dialogue scheduled for Thursday.
The party said their leaders and activists were “busy distributing relief to victims in the country’s flood affected areas” and it would be able to sit with the commission after one month.
It also urged the Election Commission to reschedule the dialogue a month later.
Confirming the matter to the Dhaka Tribune, Election Commission spokesperson SM Asaduzzaman said the commission would consider BNF’s request when it applied for another slot for the talks following due procedure.
The Election Commission, led by Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, announced their 18-month work plan for the 11th national polls, due between late 2018 and early 2019, on July 16 this year.
As part of that roadmap, the commission scheduled talks with the civil society, media, political parties, polls observers, representatives of women's rights bodies and election experts.
On July 31, it held talks with the civil society. Dialogues with the media were held on August 16 and 17.
As for the political parties, the commission has decided to hold talks with two organisations in a day, in between August 24 and September 14, in the first phase. The first meeting is scheduled at 11am and the second at 3pm.
The Election Commission has already sent invitations to the parties scheduled in the first phase.
With the BNF deciding to skip the first call, Bangladesh Sangskritik Muktijote is now set to be the first party to sit with the commission at 3pm on Thursday.
Election Commission acting secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said they would hold dialogues with six parties over three days before Eid-ul-Azha, and six others after the Eid vacations.
After Thursday, the next meetings will be held on Monday. That day, the commission will hold dialogue with Bangladesh Muslim League (BML) at 11am and Khelafat Majlish at 3pm.
Dialogues with Bangladesh Biplobi Workers Party and Jatiya Ganatantrik Party are scheduled on August 30, Bangladesh Islami Front and Islami Andolon Bangladesh on September 10, Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish and Islami Oikya Jote on September 12, and Kalyan Party and Islamik Front Bangladesh on September 14.
Since its inception “inspired by the ideology” of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman back in 2013, BNF generated speculations and controversies when it applied for registration as a political party with “Sheaf of Wheat” as its electoral symbol.
The symbol somewhat resembled the “Sheaf of Paddy” symbol of BNP, which had urged the Election Commission not to register BNF citing almost similar party flags, use of Zia’s picture in posters and even the BNP charter formulated by the late president.
Former BNP vice-chairman Barrister Nazmul Huda was at the helm of BNF at the beginning. But he announced the party defunct on September 23, 2013 amid the controversy over its registration and stepped down as its chief.
Abul Kalam Azad later joined BNF and took over as the chief convenor.
Regarding the issues with electoral symbol, Azad at that time said: “We want this controversy to continue. No one is above controversy.”
However, the Election Commission later gave BNF “Television” as its symbol and finalised its registration on November 18, 2013.
A total of 40 political parties are currently registered with the Election Commission and are eligible to contest the polls.