The Jatiya Party, a key partner in the Awami League-led Grand Alliance of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Friday decided to occupy the opposition benches in Parliament after the main opposition BNP rejected the results of Sunday’s general election in which the party was routed.
The BNP has rejected the election outcome, demanded fresh polls under a non-party caretaker government and its lawmakers did not take the oath on Thursday when Hasina along with her party legislators and Grand Alliance partners were sworn in.
“Being the chairman of Jatiya Party, I hereby inform its leaders, workers and supporters that Jatiya Party will discharge responsibility as the main opposition party in the 11th Jatiya Sangsad (parliament),” party chief and former Bangladesh president H M Ershad said in a statement.
The Jatiya Party itself secured 22 seats and emerged as the second largest party in terms of seats even as Ershad’s statement indicated the party would now sever ties with the Awami League-led Grand Alliance.
Ershad, a former military ruler-turned-politician, said that his party members would not join the Cabinet as ministers while his brother and Jatiya Party co-chairman G M Quader would act as deputy leader of the opposition.
The 88-year-old Ershad, nominated himself as chief of the opposition “in line with his highest position within the party” while he requested the Speaker “to take necessary steps on this matter”.
Ershad was ousted from power following a mass upsurge in 1990 after he ruled the country for nearly a decade.
He was largely absent from public view during the election and spent several days in Singapore, citing his “ill health”.
The announcement drew an end to a dilemma over who would act as the opposition in the 300-seat House as jailed ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which has twice ruled the country since 1991, declined to join Parliament after its disastrous poll defeat while Zia is serving a 10-year prison term on corruption charges.
The BNP and its allies in the National Unity Front (NUF) led by prominent lawyer Kamal Hossain bagged only seven seats compared to 288 for the Awami League and its Grand Alliance partners including the Jatiya Party.
According to the Constitution, elected lawmakers have to take the oath of office within 90 days after the election to retain their parliamentary membership.
In a strange political scenario, Jatiya Party had acted simultaneously as the main opposition and also a partner of the ruling alliance with several of its lawmakers inducted in Hasina’s Cabinet during the last Parliament as the BNP boycotted the 2014 election demanding a neutral non-party government to oversee the polls.