Two important allies of Bangladesh's Awami League alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have indicated that they would boycott the January 22 general elections, but have left the final decision to her.
Sheikh Hasina will formally declare "a unanimous alliance decision" at a joint press conference on Wednesday, Daily Star Online said.
Leaders of the AL-led "grand alliance", as the media calls it after three more constituents aligned with it last month but did not fully join the 14-party combine, ended a series of meetings on Tuesday night to decide on whether to take part in the hotly disputed elections.
Stopping short of saying the grand alliance would decide to "boycott and prevent" the January 22 elections, a highly placed but unnamed AL source said there was no environment to go to the polls.
Two former presidents have indicated that they would like to stay away.
Former military ruler HM Ershad's Jatiya Party (JP) and Liberal Democratic Party of AQM Badrudozza Choudhury called for elections boycott in resolutions after their presidium meetings and informed the AL leadership of it.
"JP has no existence without Chairman Ershad; as Ershad's nominations were cancelled, we decided not to participate in the elections," JP presidium member and former prime minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed said.
Ershad, whose conviction in a corruption case was upheld by the Supreme Court last month, has found his nominations rejected by the Election Commission.
"But JP is a partner of the grand alliance. What decision they take is final. We only hope they will be empathetic to us," said Zafar, but added, "I see no reason for the grand alliance to go to the polls."
There is considerable pressure on the alliance to contest from domestic quarters as well as envoys of the US, Britain, European Union and others representing Bangladesh's donor nations who are hoping that full participation would ensure a measure of political stability. Analysts say on this decision depends the credibility of the election, beset by myriad controversies right from the beginning.
Technically, an AL boycott would give the rival alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia a virtual no-contest victory. But political implications could be vastly different.
AL's non-participation, besides making it a non-election, could also mean violence, since its leaders have said that they would "resist" elections and not allow "a walkover" to the Zia-led alliance, already way ahead in its poll campaign.
The Hasina-led alliance has a long list of preconditions, including one that requires President Iajuddin Ahmed, who is doubling as the chief advisor of the caretaker government, to step aside in favour of someone "neutral".