Bangladeshi nationals working at foreign missions in Dhaka and international organisations will be able to work as local observers, not as foreign observers, in the Dhaka city elections, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said yesterday.
His clarification came after the foreign ministry expressed reservations about the EC’s approval for local staffers at foreign missions in Dhaka to get included in teams of foreign observers.
The CEC was talking to reporters after a meeting with the four election commissioners at Nirbachan Bhaban in the capital yesterday.
Election Commission Secretary Md Alamgir, who was also present there, said as per the electoral code of conduct, Bangladeshi citizens working at foreign missions and international organisations will be considered as local observers in the city polls.
“We have informed the foreign missions in Dhaka in this regard,” he added.
The EC on Thursday approved the names of 74 officials -- 46 foreign nationals and 28 Bangladeshi citizens -- from 10 foreign missions in Dhaka for inclusion in teams of foreign observers.
The officials are from diplomatic missions of the US, the UK, the European Union, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Denmark, Norway and Canada.
The same day, the foreign ministry wrote to all diplomatic missions in Dhaka, saying it would be highly appreciated if they don’t include their local employees, who are Bangladeshi citizens, in teams of foreign observers.
“In this connection, the ministry would like to point out that according to the Guidelines for Foreign Election Observer 2018, no local employee of a foreign mission having Bangladeshi nationality is eligible to observe the elections as an international observer,” it said.
Talking to journalists yesterday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, “I don’t know how the EC approved it. I think the missions know their code of conduct.
“Foreigners, not Bangladeshi citizens, should be in the teams of international observers.”
Unfortunately, various diplomatic missions have included in such teams their local employees who are Bangladeshi citizens, he mentioned.
“This is a violation of the electoral code of conduct,” Momen told reporters at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Meanwhile, political counsellors of the US Embassy in Dhaka yesterday held a meeting with two mayor aspirants -- AL candidate for Dhaka south Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and BNP candidate for Dhaka south Ishraque Hossain -- at a hotel in the capital’s Gulshan.
Following the 90-minute meeting that ended at 1:35pm, Ishraque told reporters that he told the counsellors about the violence that took place during his election campaign in Old Dhaka last week.
Ishraque’s supporters and followers of Awami League-backed councillor candidate Rokon Uddin clashed during campaigning in the capital’s Wari on January 26. At least 15 people, including two journalists, were injured.
“I also told them about the electronic voting machines (EVM) and that there are moves to occupy the polling centres,” mentioned Ishraque.
He also voiced fear that the city polls would be rigged through EVMs.
In the meantime, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said it was not right for a foreign diplomat to visit a candidate’s house.
“It is not a diplomat’s task to visit a candidate’s house and express sympathy. This is not diplomacy… I think it violates diplomatic decency,” he told reporters after attending a function in Chittagong’s Hathazari area.
Earlier on January 26, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson paid a courtesy call on Ishraque at the latter’s Gopibagh house and discussed issues relating to Dhaka city polls.
Hasan mentioned that foreign diplomats don’t do such things during election campaigns in neighbouring India or other countries.
The minister further said it was unclear why and how the EC issued observer cards to Bangladeshi staffers at foreign missions in Dhaka.