The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has formed an 18-party coalition to strengthen its resolve against the ruling Awami League party, ahead of elections scheduled for early in 2014.
BNP chairperson and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia had earlier demanded that the government call an early election during a huge public rally on March 12.
The previous opposition alliance comprised four parties, including the biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which is also part of the new coalition.
We are forming this coalition to restore democracy and to preserve human rights and the fundamental democratic rights of the people of this country, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a senior official of the BNP, told the BBC.
In response to the new alliance, the Awami League said in a statement that it is not worried about the formation of the new opposition alliance.
Indeed, one Awami official scoffed at the large number of individual parties in the new opposition alliance.
“There are only two main political parties in that coalition, BNP and Jamaat, and others are just signboard parties,” said Nun Ul Alam Lenin.
Lenin added: Democracy is very much alive in the country. There is no need to restore it.
In fact, the Daily Star newspaper of Bangladesh indicated that most of the new components of the 18-party alliance are “name-only” parties and seven of them are not even registered with the Election Commission.
Among other issues, the BNP is especially eager to restore the practice of having a caretaker government hold new parliamentary elections, something that Awami has disposed of and claimed was unnecessary.
Khaleda said the new larger alliance was an answer to all parties and people from all walks of life to be united to compel the present government to hand over power to a non-party caretaker government. It was a demand of time.
She added: Our goal is to build a tougher movement for the formation of a patriotic government to meet the challenge of time and fulfill the aspirations of people.
Since Bangladesh’s last military ruler Hussain Mohammad Ershad stepped down in 1990, two women, Zia and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, have alternately ruled the impoverished nation.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.