Amid opposition boycott Awami League set to win Sunday’s election

Bangladesh is set to hold the 12th parliamentary election on Sunday with the ruling Awami League’s victory is guaranteed for a historic fourth consecutive term amid an opposition boycott.

The main opposition BNP and several other parties are sitting out of the polls, which are being participated by the Awami League and 27 other political parties.

Thanks to the opposition boycott the AL is expected to sweep the polls to again form the government and extend its 15-year rule for another five years until 2029, according to analysts.

The opposition is staying out of the race after Hasina’s government rejected its demand to transfer power to a non-partisan administration to oversee a free and fair vote.

In a new development in the country’s electoral history the ruling party is facing tough fight mainly from the party’s own members contesting as independents.

In a televised address to the nation wrapping up her election campaign on Thursday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appealed to the voters to go to polling centres early in the morning. She asked them to cast their ballots for boat, her party’s election symbol.

But the opposition BNP and its like-minded parties have called for a 48-hour hartal (general strike), including on the Voting Day.

 Security has been stepped up across the country after a series of arson attacks on polling centres and fire on a moving train, Benapole Express, on Friday night that left four people, including children charred to death.

On Saturday, election officials fanned across the country to reach election materials – expect ballots – to the polling centres, said the EC. The ballots, however, will be sent to the centres in the morning of the voting day.

The balloting will start at 8am and continue till 4pm non-stop in 299 out of the country’s 300 constituencies. Voting in Naogaon-2 constituency has been postponed following the death of an independent contender, according to the Election Commission.

As many as 1,969 candidates, including 436 independent contenders are running in the general election.

In 80 to 100 constituencies, tough fights are expected to be seen between AL candidates and its own rivals who are running as independent contestants.

The ruling party nominated candidates are vying in the election with ‘boat’ symbol in 266 seats, while the party is sharing 26 seats with Jatiya Party and six seats with three partners of its 14-party alliance – three for Jasod, two for Workers’ Party and one for Jatiya Party (JP-Manju).

There is no AL candidate in Barishal-4 and Cox’s Bazar-1 as the candidacies of its nominated contestants were cancelled in the two constituencies. AL MP Pankaj Nath as an independent candidate is running in Barishal-4 and Kalyan Party Chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim in Cox’s Bazar-1.

Jatiya Party nominated contenders are officially contesting in 265 seats. The 265 JP candidates include 26 ones who are vying for the election as candidates of the AL-led alliance. However, some Jatiya Party contestants have unofficially quitted the electoral race.

 Out of 44 political parties registered with the Election Commission, 16 parties are out of the electoral race.

There are 11,93,33,157 voters –-6,05,92,169 males, 5,87,40,140 females and 848 transgenders – who have voting rights under 260,858 booths of 42,024 polling stations in the constituencies, according to the EC.

In the January-7 election, some 10,000 polling stations are being considered as vulnerable centres (though the Election Commission called such stations as important polling centres). The tighter security measures have been taken for the vulnerable polling stations.

Some eight lakh security men are there on election duty to maintain the electoral atmosphere by checking violation of codes of conduct throughout the country.

Of them, 38,154 Army personnel, 2,827 Navy personnel (19 districts), 45,185 (1158 platoons) BGB personnel, 2520 (75 platoons) Coast Guard personnel, 600 Rab teams and 95 Rab reserve teams, 184,959 police personnel and 5,58,500 Ansar men.

Besides, 653 judicial magistrates and some 2,000 (2,076) executive magistrates are in the field to punish the violation of electoral code of conduct.

According to the Election Commission, some nine lakh polling officials including 42024 presiding officers, 260,856 assistant presiding officers and some 522,000 polling officers are there to cast the ballot throughout the country.

There are 66 returning officers – 64 deputy commissioners and 2 divisional commissioners of Dhaka and Chattogram—and 590 assistant returning officers – 493 upazila nirbahi officers (UNO), 56 upazila election officers, 14 deputy directors of Local Government, 8 additional deputy commissioners, 11 zonal executive officers, five cantonment executive officers, 2 assistant commissioners (Land) and one circle officer – to conduct the election.

A team of 15-17 security members will be posted to protect each polling station as the Election Commission has designed separate security plans for the polling stations located outside the metropolitan area and the stations located inside the metropolitan areas.

Outside the metropolitan areas, a team of 15-16 security men including two police with arms, one ansar with arms, one ansar with arms or stick, 10 ansar with sticks, one or two village police members with sticks will protect each normal polling station. But in case of each important polling station (which is considered as vulnerable stations), there will be a team of 16-17 security men including three police with arms. Inside the metropolitan area, a 15-member security team consisting of three police members with arms, one ansar with arms, another ansar with arms or stick and 10 others ansar members with sticks will ensure security for each polling station.

The 26 JP candidates who are running as AL-led alliance contenders are in Thakurgaon- 3, Nilphamari- 3 and 4, Rangpur- 1 and 3, Kurigram- 1 and 2, Gaibandha- 1 and 2, Bogura- 2 and 3, Satkhira-2, Patuakhali -1, Barishal- 3, Pirojpur- 3, Mymensingh- 5 and 8, Kishoreganj- 3, Manikganj- 1, Dhaka- 18, Habiganj- 1, Brahmanbaria- 2, Feni- 3, Chhatogram- 5 and 8, and Narayanganj- 5.

Three Jasod candidates running as AL-led alliance contenders are in Bagura- 4, Kushtia- 2 and Laxmipur- 4, while two Workers party candidates in Barishal- 2 and , Rajshahi -2, and one Jatiya Party-JP candidates in Pirojpur- 2.

On November 15, 2023, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal announced the schedule to hold the 12th general election on January 7, 2024.

 The deadline for submission of nomination papers was November 30, 2023 while the last date for withdrawal of candidature was December 17, 2023.

The last 11th parliamentary election was held on December 30, 2018 with participation of two largest political parties Awami League and BNP.

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