12:00 AM, December 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:41 AM, December 24, 2018

Int'l Polls Observers: US statement 'disheartens' Bangladesh

Bangladesh has expressed its disappointment over the US statement concerning Dhaka's inability to allow international election observers ahead of the December 30 polls and expected constructive statements from its friends and partners.

“Bangladesh is disheartened to see a press statement issued by the United States Department of State on the upcoming National Parliamentary Elections,” read a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.

The release also read the elections scheduled for December 30 are to be held in a festive atmosphere with the participation of all the registered political parties in the country.

The US Department of State on Sunday expressed disappointment after ANFREL, a regional network of civil society organisations funded by the US, had revoked its 32-member delegation citing “Bangladesh government's inability to issue visas within the timeframe.”

The US also demanded space for peaceful expression and assembly required for a democratic election and encouraged the government to uphold its commitment to a democratic process by ensuring an election where people can freely exercise their franchise.

In response, the foreign ministry, in its statement, said the elections were being conducted by the Election Commission of Bangladesh, which is a constitutional body and independent in the exercise of its functions. 

It also said, “While Bangladesh welcomes international election observers to monitor the elections, it certainly has the responsibility to ensure that the applicants meet all required criterion as per applicable laws and guidelines of the Election Commission.”

As of now, 175 foreign election observers from different countries and organisations have been accredited to undertake election monitoring missions in Bangladesh, the release added.

“Accreditation of international election observers from a number of organisations including ANFREL is currently under process,” it said, adding that the EC had registered 118 local organisations and approved 25,920 local observers to monitor the polls. 

“In this context, the decision of ANFREL to cancel its observation mission is entirely their own despite the fact that, nearly half of its applicants have already been approved and the rest is under process,” it added.

It is reiterated that Bangladesh would continue to grant credentials to eligible international and local election observers to observe the upcoming national polls.

The foreign ministry press release noted that “Odhikar”, an NGO of Bangladesh, is the founding member of ANFREL.

“'Odhikar' is widely known for its disproportionate bias and prejudice against Bangladesh, in particular the government of Awami League, which is evident in its various reports including the recent ones published in October and December 2018,” the release added.

Besides, the release said, one of the top-ranking Bangladeshi members of this NGO was earlier appointed by the BNP-Jamaat government as the deputy attorney general, which provides ground for disqualification of his organisation and related entities as independent and neutral observer of the national elections. 

Under section 91 (C) (1) of the Representation of the People Order 1972, the commission is supposed to “permit a person as election observer who is in no way associated with or affiliated to any political party or contesting candidate and who is not known for his sympathy, direct or indirect, for any particular political ideology, creed or cause or for any manifesto, program, aims or objects of any political party or contesting candidate,” read the statement.

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