UK wants Bangladesh to hold participatory, fair polls
The United Kingdom on Friday expressed its optimism that Bangladesh would hold the next general elections in a free, fair and participatory manner.
The 11th parliamentary election is scheduled to be held by third week of January next.
Addressing a press conference at the British High commissioner’s residence in Dhaka, UK Minister of State Mark Field, who takes care of Asia and the Pacific issues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, also mentioned Bangladesh’s electoral rule with regard to revocation of political party’s registration with the election commission if a party boycotts general elections for two straight terms.
The press conference was arranged originally to brief the media about Rohingya issues, but issues of next general elections and recently-held city corporations polls also came up in the briefing.
When his attention was drawn to the next general elections, Mark Field said the United Kingdom wants to see a free and fair election in Bangladesh where all political parties would play their roles.
He said Bangladeshis living in the UK have interests about elections in Bangladesh and hoped that people’s mandate would be reflected in the government which would be formed through the next polls.
Attaching importance to ensuring participation of all political parties in the polls, Mark Field informed that he had talks with London BNP and said the BNP too wants to see a participatory election in the greater interest of Bangladesh.
Dwelling on the Rohingya crisis, the British minister said his country along with other international stakeholders would continue its pressure on Myanmar to ensure justice for Rohingyas.
UK special envoy for gender equality Joanna Roper was, among others, present.
Earlier, The United States desired Bangladesh to fulfil its commitment to have a 'free, fair, participatory and credible national election in the country making sure that "people's choice" is reflected in the final result.
"The government of Bangladesh has committed to holding free, fair, participatory and credible elections that reflect the will of Bangladeshi people. We look to the government to fulfil this commitment," said US ambassador in Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat on Thursday.
She was talking to diplomatic correspondents in DCAB Talk at the Jatiya Press Club. DCAB president Rezaul Karim Lotus and general secretary Mahfuzur Rahman Mishu also spoke on the occasion.
Ambassador Bernicat commended the holding of elections to Khulna and Gazipur city corporations but expressed concern by reports of election "irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, intimidation" of political players, polling agents before the end of voting.
She also expressed concern about the reports of police harassment and arrest of opposition polling agents but expressed satisfaction over the lower level of violence.
"This is very encouraging," Bernicat said about wider participation of political parties in the polls with lower level of violence.
Recalling good elections held in Bangladesh in the past, she said, "You have laws to create fair conditions and you have the know-how to hold fair elections."
Bernicat said Bangladesh needs a political environment that promotes tolerance, human rights, and supports the democratic process that allows all the citizens to have a strong, peaceful voice in their own future.
"Freedom of expression, vibrant media, the right to peaceful assembly, including demonstrations, and free, fair, participatory and credible elections are vital for continuous and stable growth of Bangladesh," she said adding that there is no trade on between the two.
Responding to a question, Bernicat said in some ways municipal elections are leading indicators of what the general election look like.
But in a latest move, Ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) spokesperson Obaidul Quader on Friday warned foreign diplomats against making any remarks that might hurt their relations with Bangladesh.
Also the road transport and bridges minister, Quader issued the warning while talking to newsmen during his visit to Dhaka-Bhanga 4-lane construction site at Kolakandi in Keraniganj of Dhaka district around 10:00am.
Apparently reacting to US ambassador’s comments on Bangladesh elections, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader also asked the foreign diplomats to avoid making such remarks.
On Thursday, Bernicat commended the holding of elections to Khulna and Gazipur city corporations but expressed concern by reports of election “irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, intimidation” of political players, polling agents before the end of voting.
She also expressed satisfaction over the lower level of violence and wider participation of political parties in the elections.
“Is there any concern [by foreign diplomats] about the conspiracy by a leader of a contesting party who planned to carry out acts of sabotage in the election?” Quader asked.
“We’ve the election commission for holding free and fair elections… there’s no need of any adviser,” he said.