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Making coalitions dominates electoral politics


With less than two months and a half to go before the 11th parliamentary polls, the country's major political parties are still busy forming coalitions instead of fully focussing on campaign preparedness or finalising party candidates for the electoral contest. Each of the all major players, including left and right-leaning parties and groups, is trying to form a coalition or greater alliance breaking another as hardly any party is showing interest in competing the elections alone.


The two biggest parties -- ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- are yet to confirm how many seats they will share with their alliance partners.

In this context, even many centrist leaders or members of parliament (MPs) elected more than once are not sure if s/he will be able to secure the partys nomination.

There are 14 such alliances comprising 193 political parties that are now active in the country. Only 39 parties of them have been registered with the election commission (EC).

Twelve out of 14 coalitions have been formed in the past five years or so.

The latest edition is Jatiya Oikya Front or National Unity Front, a coalition of the BNP, Gano Forum, Jatiya Oikya Prokriya (National Unity Process), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Nagorik Oikya.

Another coalition, the Jukta (United) Front, initiated by Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) president Badruddoza Chowdhury, has become ineffective as all other parties have joined the Jatiya Oikya Front.

However, two smaller parties -- Bangladesh National Awami Party (NAP) and National Democratic Party (NDP) -- on Tuesday severed ties with the BNP-led 20-party alliance.

One of them is likely to form alliance with former president Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Jukta Front while the other may join the AL-led alliance, political observers say.

The BNP-led 20-party alliance, which has come down to 18, has welcomed the formation of Jatiya Oikya Front. And both are working to draw all the anti-government parties to their coalition.

About the politics of alliance making, BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told Prothom Alo that they see the process of forming alliance or grand alliance as a positive development as it ensures multivocality in the decision-making process of the political groups.

The AL is also trying to form new coalition. Its 14-party alliance is working on drawing more parties to it. The AL alliance leaders are willing to form the grand alliance like that of 2008, if the BNPs participation in the elections is ascertained.

Another new alliance of religion-based parties has come into existence recently. The AL camp enjoys intimacy with leaders of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, a 14-party coalition, initiated by Bangladesh Islami Oikyajote chairman Misbahul Rahman and former secretary general of Tarikat Federation Abdul Awal.

However, none of them is registered with the election commission (EC).

A political party cannot contest the national elections with the partys election symbol unless it is registered with the EC.

Though official opposition party in parliament Jatiya Party (JaPa) has taken preparations to share seats with the AL, its chairman HM Ershad has formed an alliance styled Sammilita Jatiya Jote, with 58 parties. Only two of these parties are registered entities.

Nazmul Huda, a former BNP minister, who was facing corruption charges, has formed a coalition with 34 parties, none of which have registration with the EC.

Hudas coalition, Bangladesh Nationalist Alliance (BNA), is reportedly trying to join the AL-led alliance.

Incumbent MP of Dhaka-17 (Gulshan-Cantonment) constituency Abul Kalam Azad also has formed an alliance, BNF, which is an ally of the AL.

The impact of forming coalition before parliamentary elections was seriously felt during the 2001 elections. The BNP-led 4-party alliance swept the election with two thirds majority and assumed office. The immediate past ruling AL contested the polls virtually alone.

In 2005, the AL constituted 14-party alliance which formed the grand alliance in 2008, incorporating Ershads JaPa into it and earned a landslide victory. Despite alliance, the BNP had been marginalised in the elections.

The BNP leadership subsequently formed 18-party alliance that was expanded to a 20-party alliance in course of time.

At one point, Kamal Hossains Gano Forum was in the process of making coalition with the AL-allied parties but eventually backed out once Tarikat Federation and Anwar Hossain Manju-led faction of Jatiya Party joined the alliance.

Badruddoza Chowdhurys BDB and Oli Ahmeds Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) held demonstration jointly with the then opposition AL against the BNP-led alliance government before the changeover on 11 January 2007. Following dispute with B Chowdhury, the LDP later joined the BNP-led alliance.

Informed leaders said the AL is trying to get the BDB and even LDP in its alliance before the next elections.

Once a member of the AL, Kader Siddiqui initiated a political party called Krishak Sramik Janata League leaving then incumbent AL.

However, the party is reportedly trying to join the AL-led coalition.

AL leaders said they are keeping in touch with around 100 smaller parties so that they can be used at opportune moment.

The ruling party has been pondering over sharing 70 seats out of 300 with the allies in the next general polls.

AL presidium member and 14-party alliances spokesperson Mohammad Nasim told Prothom Alo, “Most of the coalitions were made without much values. Such initiatives are mainly to be a part of power.”

Nasim, also the health minister, claimed the 14-party alliance is an ideal-based platform.

Eight left-leaning parties also formed a coalition, Bam Ganatantrik Jote (Left Democratic Front), in July with the aim to establish them as a third force outside that of the AL and the BNP.

The coalition members are – CPB, BASAD, Bangladesher Biplabi Workers Party, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (Marxist), Ganasanhati Andolan, Bangladesher United Communist League, Ganatantrik Biplabi Party and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Andolan.

AL general secretary Obaidul Quader recently held an informal meeting with the coalition leaders at the CPB office.

The BNP also wants to see the left party beside the opposition coalition.

Former election commissioner Sakhawat Hossain said, “Only five parties in the country are capable of winning elections alone. Making coalitions is just a psychological game. Its not changing the quality of politics.”

“It would have been better, had different parties been able to present their opinions in parliament. But the situation is not so ideal,” he added.

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