Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013

EU won’t send polls observers

The European Union yesterday declined to send observers for the January 5 parliamentary elections, saying political forces in Bangladesh had failed to create conditions for credible polls despite many efforts, including that under UN auspices.
“The EU remains nonetheless ready to observe the elections should the political conditions allow for the holding of transparent, inclusive and credible elections,” the EU said in a statement.
It also urged all sides to refrain from resorting to violence and encouraged all political leaders to respect the right of the people of Bangladesh to express their democratic choice.
Issued in Brussels last evening by spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the commission, the statement has been sent to the government, said sources in the EU Dhaka office.
Talking to reporters yesterday evening, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said he was unaware of the EU’s decision.
“It depends on them whether they will send election observers,” he said.
He, however, said the country’s law and order would improve after the deployment of the army from December 26.
Seven years ago, the EU first announced not to send observers for the January 22, 2007 parliamentary elections which were set to be held amid boycott and violent street agitations by Awami League and other opposition parties. The declaration came on January 6 that year.
Two days later, the Election Working Group (EWG), a network of 29 local organisations, followed suit.
Before this, on December 10, 2006, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute had issued separate statements refusing to send election observers.
The history may now repeat itself. The EWG last Tuesday at a meeting with the CEC expressed concerns over the deteriorating political situation.
It said it might not be possible for the EWG to deploy observers to oversee the January 5 polls in a volatile political situation.
Last Thursday, several foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka held a meeting at an ambassador’s residence to discuss the present political situation. Some diplomats of those countries that sent election observers were sceptic about sending their observers, said meeting sources.
“We do not want to give any credibility to the January 5 election. So, we may refrain from sending election observers,” a diplomatic source told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
Credibility of the January 5 polls has already been questioned on many grounds including that as many as 154 candidates, more than half the total number of constituencies, have already won unopposed.
A pre-election assessment mission of the Commonwealth visited Bangladesh in the first week of December. But since, there has been no communications with the Election Commission (EC), said sources.