Jatiya Oikyafront yesterday demanded that the Election Commission defer the election, set for December 30, by three more weeks. But the ruling Awami League termed the proposal illogical and urged the commission to stick to its schedule.
The new opposition alliance comprising BNP and several other parties placed the demand at a meeting with the EC at the EC secretariat in the capital.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed later told reporters that the commission would discuss the matter further before making any decision.
Issues like re-election, distribution of textbooks for schoolchildren and Biswa Ijtema should also be considered, as they will be affected by the deferment of the election, he added.
Textbooks are distributed across the country on January 1. The first phase of the Ijtema will be held on January 11-13 and the second phase on January 18-20.
The EC must hold the election by January 28, when the tenure of the current parliament expires.
Emerging from the meeting, Dr Kamal Hossain, a top leader of Oikyafront, told reporters that the EC assured them of considering their demands.
"The Election Commission has promised us full support and cooperation. They said the election would be free and fair. They listened to us with patience and we hope they will cooperate with us," said the noted jurist.
The EC originally set December 23 for the 11th parliamentary election. Later, it revised the schedule, setting December 30 for the polls after the Oikyafront demanded deferment of the polls by a month.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who was also present at the meeting, said the participation of opposition parties in the polls depended on how the government and the EC behaved.
"We requested them [the EC] not to use EVMs [electronic voting machine] but they said they would use it in city corporation areas on a limited scale," said Fakhrul, also spokesperson of the Oikyafront.
The Oikyafront leaders also informed the EC about the reshuffle in the public administration and “fictitious cases” against leaders and activists of the alliance, which also includes Dr Kamal's Gonoforum, Mahmudur Rahman Manna's Nagorik Oikya and ASM Abdur Rab's JSD.
At the meeting, the EC told the alliance leaders that the army would be deployed as a striking force. However, the Commission will consider deploying army at all polling stations, Fakhrul said.
Oikyafront leaders also drew the EC's attention to the AL parliamentary board's meeting with nomination seekers at the Gono Bhaban, the official residence of the prime minister. They sought to know from the EC if the PM could hold such meetings at a government establishment.
In reply, the commission said they would look into the matter, said Fakhrul.
Soon after the Oikyafront's meeting, an AL delegation sat with the EC and placed their arguments as to why the polls cannot be deferred further.
Following the meeting, HT Imam, co-chairman the AL's election steering committee, said the election had to be held on December 30 and that it could not be deferred by “one single day or even an hour”.
Asked about using the Gono Bhaban for election purposes, he said, "All selections are being done at the Awami League president's Dhanmondi office. They [nomination-seekers] went [to the Gono Bhaban] to seek blessings of the party chief [Sheikh Hasina]."
In a press release on Tuesday, the AL said that nomination-seekers would be interviewed at Hasina's Dhanmondi office on Wednesday.
Several hundred aspirants thronged the Dhanmondi office yesterday morning only to learn that the programme was shifted to the Gono Bhaban.
The AL parliamentary board will sit again at 3:00pm today at the party chief's Dhanmondi office where Hasina will be present, according to a press release.