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EU to support only credible and inclusive elections

Staff Correspondent

The European Union’s ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna on Sunday said that the EU had not yet decided whether it would deploy observers to monitor the forthcoming 10th parliamentary polls scheduled for January 5.
After meeting the chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, at the EC secretariat, the ambassador said that the deployment of EU observers would depend on the political and security situation in Bangladesh.
‘We came here just to discuss the issue of election observers and to discuss the technical aspects of how that will be done,’ Hanna told reporters after the meeting.
He said that the European Union had not yet made a decision on whether it would deploy observers. ‘That will depend on political and security situation’
‘I stressed to the chief election commissioner that we want to support an election which would be transparent, inclusive and credible,’ he added.
In the 2008 general elections, the EU deployed about 190 observers while a total of 585 foreign election observers oversaw the polls.
Earlier on Saturday, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission Catherine Ashton issued a statement on the preparation for general elections in Bangladesh.
‘Following the announcement of the general elections in Bangladesh on 5 January 2014, the EU remains concerned that there is still confrontation between the major political groups in the country on the composition of the government during the electoral period,’ the statement reads.
Calling on the leaders of all political parties to agree on a mutually acceptable formula so as to facilitate the holding of elections which fully reflect the wishes of the people, the statement said. ‘It welcomes the efforts of those who have been working to achieve this.’
‘We urge political leaders to refrain from any actions that could spark further violence. The EU remains concerned about intimidation and confrontation in the form of “hartals” (political strikes) and about the arrest of politicians and human rights defenders,’ it reads.
The statement went on to say that the EU was ready to consider sending election observers as it did in 2008. ‘However,’ it continued saying, ‘this depends on the political and security situation in Bangladesh. Ending violence and finding a political solution through dialogue are essential to allow a peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible election to take place.’
In January 2007, the EU suspended its election observation in part because the Awami League, which was in opposition at the time, boycotted the elections. At the time it stated, ‘Major efforts have been undertaken by the EU and other international partners calling on all parties and stakeholders to work urgently and co-operatively towards an election process which meets the rights and expectations of the people of Bangladesh and which satisfies international democratic standards. Unfortunately these have not been successful to date.’
It went on to to note, ‘In view of this and also because of the decision of major parties to withdraw from participating in the 22 January elections, … it has become clear we cannot pursue the [election observer mission] as we had hoped.’

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