No EU election team for Bangladesh amid concerns over free and fair vote

Several Western governments express concern over the political climate as Bangladesh is set to hold elections in January.

Bangladesh election
Activists cover their mouth with black clothes as they demand election under caretaker government, in Dhaka [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

The European Union will not deploy a full election observer team to Bangladesh, citing a lack of “necessary conditions”, prompting the opposition to declare that the polls would not be fair.

Bangladesh is set to hold its general election by the first week of January, and several Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate, where the ruling party dominates the legislature.

The South Asian nation’s opposition has staged a series of protests demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign and let a neutral caretaker government hold the vote.

Hasina’s Awami League has ruled the world’s eighth most populous country since 2009 and has been accused of human rights abuses and corruption.

Concerns over a free and fair election flared after accusations of vote rigging and targeting of the opposition marred the polls in 2014 and 2018. Hasina’s government denied those charges.

The 2014 polls were boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley said the bloc would not deploy a “fully fledged” observer mission, according to a copy of a letter sent to Bangladesh’s election commissioner on Wednesday.

Whitely said that while the EU took into account budget constraints, the decision also “reflects the fact that at the present time, it is not sufficiently clear whether the necessary conditions will be met”, without giving further details.

His letter added that the EU is “exploring other options to accompany the electoral process”.

Bangladesh Election Commission Secretary Jahangir Alam told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Thursday that the EU’s decision was due to a “budgetary reason”.

The BNP welcomed the move, saying the EU decision highlights that “there is no environment for elections” in the country.

“There will be no elections in Bangladesh without a neutral government,” BNP spokesman Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told reporters.

The EU is Bangladesh’s largest trade partner.

The country is a global garment manufacturer, and more than half of its $55bn export merchandise is shipped to the 27-member bloc.

Source: News Agencies