With BNP and some other political oppositions staying away from the dialogue with President Md Abdul Hamid, the formation of the new Election Commission (EC) that will organise the next national election already appears to be headed for a bumpy road, unlike 2012 and 2017.
With the polls-time caretaker government abolished in 2011 by a constitutional amendment, the last two national elections were held under the ruling Awami League.
In both instances, registered political parties joined the EC formation talks and proposed names for the EC, though many of them later raised election manipulation allegations in subsequent national polls.
But boycotting the dialogues in the very first place this time with speculations over the next election, the BNP, Gono Forum (Mostafa Mohsin Montu-led faction), Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Socialist Party of Bangladesh (SPB) and Islami Andolan have said the dialogue will not yield any fruitful result.
Political analysts, who welcomed the presidential talks with the political parties that began on 20 December last year, have attributed the pull-out from the dialogues to potential output "mismatching with the expectations" of the parties.
BNP on Saturday said the crisis is not over the EC formation but rather over a polls-time government.
"The 12th national election will be pointless if it is held under the ruling Awami League. There must be a polls-time interim government, which will constitute an EC to conduct the national election," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told journalists in Dhaka on Saturday.
In a similar tone, Islami Andolon Saturday put forward a seven-point charter of demands, including the call for a polls-time government.
The tenure of the current EC will end on 14 February this year and the new one, according to the constitution, will have to be appointed before that date. The new commission will hold the next general election in December 2023 or early 2024.
Till date, eight of 16 political parties, who were invited in the first phase, have joined the talks.
Jurist Shahdeen Malik believes political parties are shying away from the dialogues as they feel the talks with the president and their recommendations did not have much of an impact on EC formation previously, and the same thing is likely to happen this time too.
"The constitution does not empower the president to form the search committee for appointing the five-member election commission. According to the constitution, there should have been a law regarding the EC formation," he said.
At the beginning of the dialogue on 20 December last year, the main opposition Jatiya Party requested the president for an EC formation law. Quoting the president, political leaders who joined the talks later on said the president is also in favour of a new law.
However, Law Minister Anisul Huq said there is not enough time to formulate a new law promised in the constitution with less than two months in hand. But Shahdeen Malik said the law minister was given a draft of the EC formation law seeking an ordinance before the dialogue began.
But the law minister recently said there is no scope for any ordinance by the president too. His comments drew criticism, with political parties saying he cannot make such comments amid the dialogue.
"Now the talks have turned meaningless. The PM will decide who will be in the search committee and send the list to the president," said the jurist.
Tofail Ahmed, a local government expert, said boycotting the talks could be a political strategy ahead of the polls.
"But the dialogues offered the parties an opportunity to talk about key national issues and submit recommendations to the president. If the president did not heed them, they could say that they had done their part," he added.
However, the expert believes the crisis is not all about EC formation but involves other issues as well, such as a political commitment toward holding fair polls.
Ali Imam Majumder, a former cabinet secretary, said, "It is not possible to comment on what the dialogues will deliver next. We need to wait until the talks end."