The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) has expressed dismay regarding the Election Commission’s delay in providing it with the identities of election observers for the 11th general elections.
“ANFREL expresses dismay with the manner in which the Bangladesh authorities have handled the accreditation application process for domestic and international election observers,” the organisation said in a statement published yesterday.
The intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations along with several domestic monitoring groups faced significant delays in their accreditation or were barred altogether from monitoring the upcoming elections by the election commission, ANFREL alleges.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) also took part in the assessment of accreditation applications along with the EC, the statement further says.
“Due to significant delays in the accreditation approval by the BEC (Bangladesh Election Commission) and visa approvals by the MoFA, ANFREL is forced to terminate its observation mission in Bangladesh on December 22,” the statement reads.
ANFREL reportedly requested accreditation for the elections as early as November 4, 2018 formally. It submitted all necessary accreditation requirements to the EC by November 26, 2018.
“As of December 21, 2018, a mere nine days before the elections, ANFREL was granted accreditation for only 13 of its observers out of the 32 applications it submitted,” ANFREL says in its statement.
“We regret that this situation hindered us from directly working with the Bangladesh election stakeholders, which ANFREL has been looking forward to,” the statement says.
With ANFREL’s withdrawal, the organisation registers its doubts regarding the integrity of the elections, especially with the reports on civil society restrictions and arrest of numerous opposition members.
With the absence of foreign monitoring organisations, the very important task of documenting and assessing the conduct of elections falls solely on the shoulders of domestic organisations, the statement says.
These organisations are operating in an extremely repressive political environment that is not conducive to free civil society activities, it adds.
ANFREL also is concerned with the high number of domestic election observers that have not received accreditation.