24 November 2018, Sat, 11:45

EU not to send observers, but to keep eyes on polls

Though it will not send any observer team because of a lengthy preparatory process, the European Union (EU) will closely monitor the next national election in Bangladesh.

The EU will be keeping eyes on the developments in the coming weeks, a diplomatic source said, adding that not sending an observer team does not mean that they are not going to follow the elections.

Meanwhile, a delegation of European Parliament is scheduled to meet prime minister Sheikh Hasina at 6pm on Saturday, said an official.

On the other hand, two election experts of the EU are scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Tuesday to meet key interlocutors, including chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda, said another official.

Such an expert team usually submits a report to the EU headquarters on its observation, the diplomatic source said mentioning that they might stay in Bangladesh until January depending on the evolving situation.

The EU thinks sending a credible observer mission is a very big operation as it involves a good number of observers and needs a long preparation.

It, however, expects free, fair, credible and transparent elections in Bangladesh.

“We’re looking forward to free, fair, credible and transparent elections in this country,” said managing director for Asia and the Pacific at European External Action Service Gunnar Wiegand during his Bangladesh visit in July last.

International observers want to observe polls:
International election observers have shown interest in observing the upcoming national elections after the opposition alliance Oikya Front, which includes BNP, has announced its intention of joining the polls.

Various international organisations and countries have already communicated this interest to the election commission in Bangladesh.

EC officials on Thursday told the media that different organisations including the US based election observer group IRI and foreign embassies started to contact the EC early this month. The process may gain momentum from next month.

Besides, Bangkok based Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL), and the embassies of France and Japan have also shown interest in observing the election. Some other countries have also contacted the EC over the last two weeks in this connection.

However, the commission has set certain new guidelines for the international observers for the first time this year.

The guidelines ‘highly discourage’ live telecasting from the polling center or live on Facebook/twitter or any other social media. The observers are asked to maintain strict political impartiality and always display the identification cards provided by EC. International observers are also asked not to obstruct the election process and not to enter the booths reserved for casting ballots. Only one representative of an observer group can be present during the vote counting.

The observers should apply to the commission and the commission will forward the application to the home and foreign ministries following scrutiny.

A senior official of EC on condition of anonymity said that different local and foreign organisations invite Bangladesh Election Commission on different occasions. The EC will invite those organisations alongside representatives of South Asian countries. The commission is also planning to invite organisations such as the Commonwealth which does not join the process without invitation.

Normally the foreign ministry cooperates with the EC in this process of bringing in international observers. But the ministry is yet to start working on this.

A senior official of foreign ministry said, a cell is formed before the election to facilitate international observers’ participation. But no such cell has been formed yet, the official said, adding that the process may start after a decision from a high level of the government.