Bangladesh Election Commission announces parliamentary election amid ongoing protests

Bangladesh’s Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal announced on Wednesday that Bangladesh will hold its twelfth parliamentary election on January 7, 2024, according to local media outlet New Age. The Election Commission did not reach consensus on the election schedule with opposition parties before announcing the date.

Bangladesh’s ruling party Awami League has viewed the election schedule positively, saying it “adheres to the law and is applicable to all parties.” However, most opposition parties have rejected it. Opposition parties have protested across Bangladesh for about two weeks to demand Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed resign in favor of a caretaker government. Bangladesh’s main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said it does not trust that the government will conduct elections fairly. It also condemned the government’s “unilateral declaration” of the election schedule.

Awal urged all political parties to respect the election’s code of conduct. He asserted:

The government has repeatedly expressed its clear commitment to making the upcoming parliamentary elections fair, free, impartial, participatory, and peaceful. The commission will also discharge its duties with honesty, integrity, and sincerity to the best of its ability and by taking all necessary assistance from the government to make the upcoming election free, fair, and peaceful[.]

BNP has called for people to boycott the election if Hasina remains as prime minister and does not give way to a caretaker government. Senior Joint Secretary General of BNP Ruhul Kabir Rizvi stated, “We reject with utter disgust the schedule announced by the spineless Election Commission to take away democracy and the voting rights of the people through another farce election like in the past at the behest of…Hasina.”

This is not the first time Bangladesh has seen political violence. On October 29, a Bangladesh court on Sunday ordered the arrest of BNP members after a major opposition protest which aimed to remove Hasina from power was held one day before. On November 14, UN experts expressed concern about the human rights situation in Bangladesh amidst the arrest of senior opposition figures and arbitrary detention of political activists.