DHAKA: An alliance of opposition parties accused Bangladesh’s Elec­tion Commission (EC) on Monday of being biased in favour of the ruling Awami League Party after it rejected nearly a quarter of the candidates the alliance nominated for elections on Dec 30.

The EC has rejected 205 of a total 900 nominations made by the Jatiya Oikya Front, or United National Front, a multi-party opposition alliance, said S. Farazi, press secretary of one of the parties.

“The EC has played a biased role in cancelling nominations, as almost no nominations from the ruling party were rejected,” said Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagarik Oikya, a partner in the alliance that seeks to oust Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League from power.

Manna said the alliance planned to challenge the rejections in court. “Th­ough we know we will not gain anything, we will not bow down to this injustice without a challenge,” he said.

The EC denied the charge of bias, saying that of a total 3,065 nominations received, 786 had been rejected for various reasons, including non-payment of loans or utility bills and criminal convictions.

Helal Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the EC, said it “had not yet classified numbers based on their political affiliations”.

Four sources familiar with the matter said dozens of rejected nominations were of breakaway elements from the Awami League who had failed to secure party nominations.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif, senior joint general secretary of the Awami League, said only five or six of its nominations had been rejected.

While Hasina’s government has won widespread global plaudits for letting in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar, its critics have decried Hasina’s increasingly authoritarian rule, the government’s handling of student protests this year and its crackdown on free speech.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2018

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