Countries which are development partners of Bangladesh including India stated that the 2018 parliamentary elections will be acceptable even if BNP does not participate provided the election is free, fair and inclusive.
According to India, no matter which party assumes into power, the election should ensure the opportunity to elect the candidates in a neutral, fair and competitive environment. The thoughts on Bangladesh’s national election were shared with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s International Affairs adviser Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi.
Dr. Gowher Rizvi had separate discussions regarding the 11th parliamentary elections with several important international political figures including Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, several US diplomats and many officials of the European Union.
Dr. Gowher Rizvi shared about some of the key elements of the discussions he has had with foreign diplomats. He said, “We definitely want the election to be free and fair. We want the election to be inclusive. If a particular party does not take part in the election, it should not mean that the election will not be impartial or fair.”
Dr. Gowher Rizvi thinks that such tendency is ‘quite dangerous and a sort of blackmailing. It’s a huge obstruction in the path of democratic propensity.’
“The future of democracy should not depend on the likes of a particular party. We want BNP to participate in the elections, we welcome them. I think if BNP believes in democracy, it will definitely participate in the election. But if it chooses to withdraw like 2014, we (the government) have to take actions as per the constitution,’’ said Dr. Rizvi.
Several sources confirmed Dr. Rizvi’s meeting with Sushma Swaraj although foreign ministries of both the countries regarded it as a mere ‘private meeting.’ Bangladesh’s ensuing election was also discussed in the meeting, confirmed Dr. Gowher Rizvi.
It is speculated that Dr. Gowher Rizvi’s discussions with foreign entities are to make the election to be arranged by the government acceptable and acknowledged by India, US, European Union and other development partners, if BNP finally withdraws from upcoming parliamentary elections.
According to sources, If Begum Zia gets convicted, chances are that BNP will not participate in the election. In that case, an inclusive election is quite unlikely to take place.
Earlier, Sushma Swaraj expressed India’s interest for a participatory election to be held in Bangladesh. Dr. Gowher Rizvi wanted to explain the government’s perspective that even if BNP does not participate in the election, it should not mean that the election would not fair or neutral. BNP’s choice to boycott election is the party’s political decision. It has nothing to do with the election. Dr. Rizvi also explained that if India’s stand remains the same, it will add more to BNP’s demands.
That is why he insisted upon 3 features of an election:
- Parliamentary elections will be held under the supervision and authority of the Election Commission.
- All the political parties will participate in the election spontaneously.
- Election will be competitive. There will be no election without opposition.
According to sources, Sushma Swaraj and other high officials accorded with the views of Dr. Rizvi.
Political analysts think that if India finally agrees to admit the election as acceptable without BNP`s participation, then the political pressure will be on BNP and not on Awami League. In that case, the movement against the ruling government will become difficult for BNP.