April 19, 2024, 2:17 am

As new parliament convenes, uncertainty looms over alignment of independent MPs

  • Update Time : Saturday, January 27, 2024
  • 22 Time View
Photo: Collected

Their stance on whether to join a party or form an alliance in parliament for the allocation of reserved seats is likely to become on Sunday

Desk Report:

After the Awami League swept to a historic fourth straight term in power at the recent elections amid a boycott by the BNP and its allies, Bangladesh’s 12th parliament is set to convene for the first time on Tuesday.

While the chief whip and five other whips have been appointed ahead of the inaugural session, the make-up of the opposition remains unclear.

A record 62 independent MPs were elected to parliament this time but whether they will join any coalition or party is still a matter of conjecture.

But they must inform the Election Commission about their plans by Jan 31 in order to facilitate the allocation of 50 reserved seats for women.

In the Jan 7 elections, the Awami League secured an absolute majority with 223 seats, followed by independents with 62 and the Jatiya Party, which was the main opposition party in the last two parliaments, with 11.

Among the ruling party-led 14 Party Alliance, the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSaD) got one seat, and the Workers Party got one seat. The Kalyan Party, once allied with the BNP, also won a seat.

Accordingly, the Awami League is expected to get 38 picks for reserved seats, the Jatiya Party two, and independents 10.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called a meeting with the independent MPs at Gonobhaban on Sunday, which is likely to provide clarity regarding their future party or alliance affiliations.

“We have sent letters to five parties and 62 parliamentarians in the 12th Parliament, requesting their stance on joining parties and coalitions by Jan 31. This information is essential for proceeding with the election for the reserved women’s seats,” said Election Commission Additional Secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath.

JaSaD has already communicated its intention to join the Awami League-led coalition to the EC.

Ashok also said that if independents do not affiliate themselves with a party or alliance within the stipulated timeframe, the commission will determine the necessary steps forward.

WHAT INDEPENDENTS ARE SAYING

Among the 62 independent candidates who emerged victorious in the Jan 7 elections, 59 are affiliated with the ruling Awami League. The remaining two have direct ties to party politics.

Siddiqul Alam ran as an independent candidate in the Nilphamari-4 constituency after failing to get the Jatiya Party’s ticket. He went on to beat the Jatiya Party’s nominee and incumbent MP Ahsan Adelur Rahman in the race.

Alam said that after being expelled from Jatiya Party, he remains independent. He hasn’t been in contact with the party post-election but plans to attend a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and will adhere to any directives issued there.

Alam also mentioned that there had been no discussions among the independent MPs regarding forming an alliance.

Another independent victor, Mohammad Husam Uddin Chowdhury, president of Anjumane Al Islah, won the Sylhet-5 constituency. Known for his close ties to the government, he defeated Awami League’s Masuk Uddin Ahmad.

Chowdhury expressed his intention to serve as an independent MP without joining any coalition or party.

“We will meet the prime minister on Sunday. I am also going to Gonobhaban. We want to take the country forward under the prime mininster’s leadership. Let’s see what her plans are.”

“I did not contest the election on any party’s ticket so I want to play the role that independent MPs have played in the past.”

Syed AK Ekramuzzaman, an adviser to BNP chief Khaleda Zia and now an independent MP from Brahmanbaria-1, was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the 59 Awami League members who won as independents are awaiting directions from their party leader.

Md Zakaria, the independent MP for Dinajpur-1 and president of Birganj Upazila Awami League, reaffirmed his allegiance to the Awami League.

“We are looking forward to the meeting with the prime minister and will proceed accordingly.”

JATIYA PARTY READY AND WAITING

Amid uncertainty over the main opposition in the 12th parliament, the Jatiya Party nominated its Chairman GM Quader as the leader of the opposition on Jan 18.

The party picked its Co-Chairman Anisul Islam Mahmud for the role of deputy leader of opposition and General Secretary Mojibul Haque Chunnu as the opposition chief whip.

The Jatiya Party notified Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury about the decision in writing following its first parliamentary meeting.

However, these nominations cannot take effect without the speaker’s approval, according to parliamentary rules.

“The speaker has the authority to approve the opposition leader. We still don’t know what she’ll decide. Hopefully, it will be clear before the first session convenes,” Chunnu said.

However, Chunnu did not shed any light on the prospect of any independent member joining the Jatiya Party contingent in parliament.

On the status of the expelled party leader Siddiqul Alam, who triumphed as an independent in Nilphamari, Chunnu said that there has been no contact with him nor has the party made any decision about him rejoining.

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