12:00 AM, January 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:52 AM, January 03, 2019

Western powers denounce polls day violence

Strongly denouncing the election-day violence in Bangladesh, Western powers have said there are “credible” reports that polls irregularities marred the voting on December 30.

Diplomatic sources said the strongly-worded statements from the USA, the UK, and the European Union was indicative that they might mount pressure on the Bangladesh authorities for transparent examinations into the alleged irregularities, violent incidents, intimidation and harassment that created obstacles for the opposition candidates to campaign freely.

The UN also echoed the concerns, saying that it was aware of violent incidents and reports of irregularities in the Bangladesh general elections.

“We encourage the parties to address electoral complaints in a peaceful manner and through legal means,” the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller and UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo separately met with Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque yesterday and discussed issues raised in the US and UN statements on the Bangladesh polls.

According to diplomatic sources, the US ambassador at the meeting mentioned about a resolution adopted unanimously by the US House of Representatives on December 12.

The resolution (H. Res. 1169) titled “Reaffirming the commitment of the United States to promote free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Bangladesh” had called on the Bangladesh government to respect the freedom of speech and of the press and to heed the Bangladesh Election Commission's request to ensure security for minorities and maintain communal harmony for a peaceful election.

It had also urged the Bangladesh political leaders and judicial authorities to respect the will of voters and ensure that all Bangladeshis would be able to participate freely in the elections, and that the polls would be impartial and inclusive.

Conveying the message of their respective authorities to the foreign secretary, the US and UN envoys said Bangladesh should ensure addressing the claims and allegations of irregularities, said diplomatic sources.

Issues of cooperation and future engagement between Bangladesh and the US and the UN also came up for discussion at the meetings.

Meanwhile, Canada in a statement yesterday said it was disappointed by credible claims of irregularities exhibited during the campaign.

“While welcoming the increased participation of opposition parties in this election, Canada remains disappointed by credible claims of irregularities exhibited during the campaign and calls on the relevant authorities to work transparently with all parties to address these claims,” said Global Affairs Canada.

It called upon all concerned to proceed in a peaceful and lawful manner and to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are protected in the transition period leading up to the installation of a new government.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mark Field, British minister of state for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in a statement said, “I am aware of credible accounts of obstacles, including arrests, that constrained or prevented campaigning by opposition parties, and of irregularities in the conduct of elections on polling day that prevented some people from voting.

He called for a full, credible and transparent resolution of all complaints related to the conduct of the elections.

“I deplore the acts of intimidation and unlawful violence that have taken place during the campaign period, and am deeply concerned by the incidents that led to so many deaths on the polling day. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones,” he added.

Free, fair, peaceful, and participatory elections were essential to any functioning democracy, said the British minister of state.

“It is vital for the government and all political parties to now work together to address differences and find a way forward in line with the interests of the people of Bangladesh.”

He said the UK would continue to support the people of Bangladesh in their aspirations for a more stable, prosperous, and democratic future.

In another statement on Tuesday, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic said, “Violence has marred the election day, and significant obstacles to a level playing field remained in place throughout the process and have tainted the electoral campaign and the vote.”

He said the relevant authorities should now ensure a proper examination of allegations of irregularities and commit to full transparency in their resolution.

The USA in a press statement said, “We note with concern credible reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence in the pre-election period that made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, and campaign freely,”

“We are also concerned that election-day irregularities prevented some people from voting, which undermined faith in the electoral process,” Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson at the US state department said on Tuesday.

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