Polls schedule likely today despite protests

A Bangladeshi woman casts her vote at a polling station in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Police fired at protesters and more than 100 polling stations were torched in Sunday’s general elections marred by violence and a boycott by the opposition, which dismissed the polls as a farce. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The Election Commission is likely to announce the schedule for the 11th parliamentary elections today despite protests from opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front.
Chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda would announce the polls schedule through his address to the nation at 7:00pm today, commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said at a briefing at Nirbachon Bhaban on Wednesday.
The address would be aired by Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar, said a release of the commission.
Helaluddin said that the commission completed all preparations in this regard and a meeting would be held this morning before the announcement of the schedule.
He said that the commission asked the law enforcement agencies to take necessary initiatives to tackle any situation following the announcement of the polls schedule.
Jatiya Oikya Front leader Mahmudur Rahman Manna after a dialogue with prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told reporters that the alliance would reject the polls schedule if announced today.
Earlier, the opposition alliance asked the commission to refrain from announcing the schedule until the ongoing dialogue of the prime minister yielded a positive result for a free, fair and participatory election.
Front leader Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir threatened to march towards the commission if it announced the schedule today.
Ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the dialogue with the front ended on Wednesday but discussion would continue even after announcement of the polls schedule.
On Tuesday, the chief election commissioner dismissed the possibility of delaying the announcement of the polls schedule, saying that polling date might be delayed if political parties agreed.
On Monday, front leaders during a heated exchange urged the commission not to announce the schedule until the outcome of ongoing dialogue between the ruling alliance and the front was visible.
On November 4, election commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury told a press conference that the commission decided to announce the polls schedule on November 8 considering everything.
He said that the commission also decided to use electronic voting machines on a limited scale in the 11th parliamentary elections.
He, however, did not disclose the polling date while commission sources said that the commission was planning to hold the polls in the second half of December.
Separate delegations of the ruling Awami League, the Jatiya Party-led Sammilita Jatiya Jote and the Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh-led Jukta Front demanded not to defer the announcement of the polls schedule.
The commission issued a letter on Tuesday asking the authorities concerned to send nomination forms and other polling materials to field-level offices today.
The official letter, signed by assistant secretary Syed Golam Rashed, stated that the nomination forms, pay slips, receipt books, the electoral code of conduct of and other polling materials would need to be sent to senior district election officers and district election officers from the press today.
The countdown to the 11th parliamentary elections began on October 31 as the constitution stipulated that parliamentary polls had to be held within 90 days before the expiry of the five-year tenure of parliament.
The tenure of the 10th parliament would expire on January 28, as it went into the first session on January 29, 2014.
The 10th parliamentary elections were held on January 5, 2014, amid boycott by all opposition parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, demanding restoration of non-party election-time caretaker government system