Hours after telling political parties to "Stand with rifles if someone stands with a sword" in a dialogue, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal changed the tone and said, "There will be no actual fighting with weapons. You have to fight with public support."
The Election Commission (EC) has started holding dialogues with the country's 39 registered political parties on the upcoming 12th national election.
On Sunday, three political parties – Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM), Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF), and Bangladesh Congress – held talks with the EC.
Another party, Bangladesh Muslim League (BML), boycotted the dialogue.
During the EC's dialogue with the NDM on Sunday morning, CEC Kazi Habibul Awal said that the Commission cannot stop violence during the polls and called on the political parties to take responsibility.
"You will go to the field, and play. We are just referees. Stand with rifles if someone stands with a sword," he said.
"We want to make it clear that the responsibility of the 2014 and 2018 elections should not be put on us. We will take responsibility for the election under us," the CEC said addressing the representatives of NDM.
In response to CEC's remarks, NDM Chairman Bobby Hajjaj said, "The law does not permit us to stand with shotguns."
Later in the dialogue with Bangladesh Congress at 2:30 pm, the Chief Election Commissioner changed his tone about standing with the rifle.
Then he said, "Election is a kind of war. Many people refer to it as a battlefield. There will be no actual fighting with weapons. You have to fight with public support… you don't fight with swords or rifles. You will fight over the ballot."
Habibul Awal urged the political parties to reduce the distance between themselves and called for responsible behaviour.
"The Election Commission wants to conduct elections with the participation, cooperation and support of all parties. Otherwise, no matter how sincere our efforts to conduct free and fair elections, it may fail," he said.
"There are various hopes, disappointments and arguments in the political sphere about the upcoming 12th national elections. Controversies need to be resolved. The Commission also has limitations. We have clearly admitted it and explained the reasons repeatedly," Awal said.
We hope that the national leaders will resolve the contentious issues through intensive discussions with a positive attitude, the CEC urged.
In the dialogue, the BNF said that social unrest, political instability, absence of strong opposition in the parliament are pushing the democratic system towards uncertainty. The possibility of an acceptable and participatory election in a peaceful manner is uncertain at the moment.
Bangladesh Congress has alleged that every election in the country is being held amid extreme mismanagement and irregularities.