US visa curb: Govt won't let polls be compromised, says foreign ministry

US visa curb

Taking note of the new US visa policy for Bangladeshis announced last night, the government today said its apparatus will take necessary measures to prevent and address any unlawful practices or interference by any individual, group or entity which can compromise the smooth and participatory conduct of elections.

"The electoral process will remain under strict vigilance, including by international observers as accredited by the Election Commission," said the foreign ministry in a statement today.

The government also expects that local undemocratic forces that resort to violence, arson, and destruction would remain cautious and refrain from their misguided efforts to jeopardise the electoral process, the statement added.

"It is entirely up to the people of Bangladesh to sustain the hard-earned democratic process, political stability and development gains in the country," it reads.

Foreign ministry said the government appreciates that the international community including the US firmly stands by prime minister's sustained commitment to ensure free and fair elections.

The US secretary of state last night announced the new visa policy, restricting the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

He said the purpose of the policy is to support Bangladesh's goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.

In its reaction, Bangladesh foreign ministry today said it takes note of the new US policy and would like to view this announcement in the broader context of American government's unequivocal commitment to holding free and fair elections at all levels for upholding the country's democratic process.

The foreign ministry statement said the people of Bangladesh are very much conscious of their democratic and voting rights. There is no precedent for any government to continue in office having usurped people's mandate through vote rigging.

"The people's right to franchise is considered a state sanctity by the Awami League government that has a political legacy of unrelenting struggles and sacrifice for securing that right. The government attaches importance to freedom of assembly and association for all peaceful and legitimate democratic processes," reads the statement.

Foreign ministry said the electoral reform process in Bangladesh continues in a consultative manner involving all concerned stakeholders. As part of the process, photo-based voter ID cards were issued in response to the 10.23 million fraudulent voters enlisted by BNP-led government, it added.

It said the use of transparent ballot boxes has also been made the norm to establish confidence among the electorate as well as the polling officials and agents. Also, the National Election Commission continues to be equipped with the wherewithal to carry out its functions in full independence, credibility and efficiency.

The present government took the initiative for the first time to get the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Appointment Act, 2022 enacted by the National Parliament. Pursuant to this law, a new Election Commission has been constituted, the statement said.

"As mandated by the Bangladesh Constitution and Representation of the People Order, 1972, the entire executive machinery will remain at the Election Commission's disposal to assist in the discharge of its responsibilities in a way as it may direct," adds the statement.