Khaleda, Hasina may face off : EC mulls rivals' electoral debate

Khaleda, Hasina may face off : EC mulls rivals' electoral debate

The Election Commission (EC) plans to organise electoral debates on crucial issues before the December 29 parliamentary elections with participation of top political leaders. This might bring archrivals Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia face to face.

Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussain yesterday held a meeting with senior officials of Bangladesh Television (BTV), BBC World Service Trust and UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to proceed with the plan.

The meeting discussed different technical aspects of organising the debates and Sakhawat asked the agency officials to prepare proposals on it for further discussion, sources said.

Later, Election Commissioner Sakhawat told The Daily Star that they only held a primary discussion at his office. “It is really a tough task. We will have to work a lot to organise the debate,” he said.

If the EC plan succeeds, the face-off between four-party alliance chief BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and AL-led grand alliance chief AL President Sheikh Hasina would be the first since restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1990.

On November 21, the two top political leaders of the country met and exchanged greetings after a long time at the Armed Forces Day reception at Senakunja in Dhaka Cantonment. The incident showed high hopes for their holding talks in the future to bring an end to the country’s confrontational politics.

Earlier, eminent jurist and counsel of both the leaders Rafiq-ul-Haque initiated steps to bring them to the table to discuss crucial national issues. But the move did not materialise.

Asked who will be invited to the debates, Sakhawat said they are planning to hold three-four sessions with senior political leaders. “We plan to bring the top leaders in the last episode of the programme,” he added.

But the chiefs of all 39 registered parties might not be invited to the debate as most of these parties have joined the two electoral alliances led by BNP and AL. Instead, top leaders of the alliances would get the invitation, commission sources said.

Meeting sources said if possible the programme would be broadcast on BTV in between December 20 and 26.

The EC will communicate with political parties for their opinions at appropriate time and seek their participants’ names.

The EC had organised an electoral debate before the August 4 polls to four city corporations with participation of the mayoral contenders. The programme was lauded by all quarters.

During the electoral reform talks between the EC and political parties, a few leaders came up with the suggestion of holding electoral debates.

original source

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