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International community 'shouldn't recognize new government'

Arafatul Islam Interview
December 31, 2018

In an exclusive interview with DW, Kamal Hossain, the leader of Bangladesh's main opposition alliance, accused PM Sheikh Hasina's government of "manufacturing" the results of the latest general election.

Dr. Kamal Hossain
Image: privat

Bangladesh opposition leader talks to DW

Bangladesh's ruling Awami League party and its allies won virtually every parliamentary seat in the country's general election, according to official results released on Monday, giving Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a third straight term.

While the ruling alliance won as many as 288 seats out of 300 parliamentary constituencies across the country, the main opposition secured only seven seats. The vote, however, was marred by deadly violence, and opposition parties disputed the outcome, criticizing it as "farcical" and rigged.

Read more: Bangladesh — a small tiger economy with big plans

Speaking to DW after the results were announced, 82-year-old Kamal Hossain (main picture), the leader of the principal opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front, urged the international community not to recognize the nation's new government.

DW: How do you view these election results?

Kamal Hossain: This election has been rejected by most, if not all, of the opposition parties. It's a result which doesn't reflect the will of the people. The outcome was manufactured by this government. After people suffered the shock of the government imposing this result, in a so-called election, they're now coming together to resist and correct it.

It's totally unacceptable for people to have this government in office for the next five years on the basis of this fraudulent vote.

While the opposition alleges massive vote-rigging and ballot-stuffing, PM Hasina rejects the accusations and says people had gone to the polls enthusiastically in a largely peaceful general election. In this context, what is the opposition's future course of action?

Premierministerin Bangladesch Scheich Hasina
PM Sheikh Hasina, who got a fourth term, rejected opposition's allegations of election fraud and intimidationImage: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Opposition parties have already lodged their protest, and we will soon come up with a joint action plan to deal with the situation. The opposition has rejected the result, and called for a mass movement. Opposition parties are consulting each other on our future course of action. We will continue to work together and come up with a strategy to rescue the people from the current situation.

Opposition parties are also calling for a fresh vote, which the chief election commissioner has already rejected. What's your take on this?

The chief election commissioner is the person who is actually responsible for creating this crisis. Despite the irregularities in Sunday's vote, the commissioner said it's a valid election and declared the results. Everyone has therefore lost confidence in the commissioner's ability to be an impartial official and hold free and fair elections.  

What can be done to improve the independence and competence of Bangladesh's state institutions like the election commission?

We need constant vigilance and activism on the part of citizens, political parties and civil society organizations. They must demand that the government and state institutions uphold constitutional guarantees. The constitutional principles and provisions must be respected by every institution, particularly the election commission.

What are you planning to do to improve the state of human rights and free speech in the country?

We need a united movement of citizens, political parties and human rights organizations that are committed to the realization of human rights and the institutionalization of democracy in the country.

What role should the international community play in the current circumstances?

I hope the international community will take note of the current situation in Bangladesh. And on the basis of the United Nations charter and resolutions, it shouldn't recognize any government which doesn't have the consent of the people.

Kamal Hossain is the founder and president of the Gano Forum political party and leader of the Jatiya Oikya Front opposition alliance.

The interview was conducted by Arafatul Islam in Dhaka. It has been edited for clarity.

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