EU ambassador confident all political parties will join next Bangladesh election

EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon has expressed optimism that all political parties will join the next general election as he believes they have learnt lessons from the past.

Nurul Islam
Published : 21 August 2017, 10:47 AM
Updated : 21 August 2017, 10:48 AM

In an exclusive interview with before he leaves his post in Dhaka, Mayaudon said he is confident that the EU electoral monitors will also observe the elections.

“This time the scenario will be different. And all political forces will participate in the next elections. I am confident that it’ll happen,” he said, pointing to the “stable” condition prevailing in Bangladesh.

“There have been lessons learnt. I am confident that this will bring all political forces into the next election,” he said, while shedding light on the issues tied to the EU and Bangladesh.

Democracy and human rights are the cornerstones of the 2001 cooperation agreement based on which the EU engages with Bangladesh.

The 28-country bloc, however, did not observe the 2014 general election as BNP’s boycott of the polls left most of the seats uncontested.

In 2015, they stopped funding projects with the Election Commission, despite the fact that the overall development cooperation budgets for Bangladesh increased.

After the formation of the new EC, Ambassador Mayaudon met the new chief election commissioner and expressed the EU’s “availability” to consider any request that the CEC could possibly submit.

“I am sure this offer is duly considered.”

Pierre Mayaudon. Photo: Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman

“So far we have not received any request for assistance. With the election getting closer, we may receive such request. And again we’ll be very open to consider what we can do. The sooner the better -- to have an impact.”

The specific dimension of the assistance is the possibility of sending EU election observation mission, Mayaudon said.

“That observation does not take place on the election day only. That starts two or even three months before the election. So it’s quite a heavy and significant and useful initiative.”

The offer of helping the EC was also made during the mid-February diplomatic consultations with Dhaka. The ambassador also conveyed this to the prime minister at his farewell meeting.

“All official interlocutors very much welcomed this possibility, so I am confident that this time it (election monitoring) will happen.”

Mayaudon joined the Dhaka mission in Oct 2014 in a volatile political situation. He also witnessed the unprecedented terrorist attack on a Gulshan café on July 1 last year, in which 22 people including 17 foreigners were killed.

After the attack, he suggested revisiting the diplomatic security arrangement in Dhaka.

The government responded positively and strengthened security measures. But travel alerts are still there. Many countries announced their Dhaka missions unaccompanied, allowing only employed adult family members to remain in Dhaka.

Business leaders, however, say such travel alerts or warnings hurt both businesses and the image of Bangladesh.

The ambassador appreciated the government’s efforts to take “concrete actions” to ensure better protection of foreigners. “Confidence is back,” he said, adding that still “all must remain cautious”.

“It’s a global phenomenon and the terrible attack in Spain and Finland show that we have to remain extremely vigilant. Terrorists do not send warnings before taking actions. So we have been surprised once, we cannot be surprised twice.”

Mayaudon cited police’s actions to defuse an attempted terrorist attack in Dhaka on August. It means that there are some groups or entities which are driven by the intention to perpetrate such acts of violence, he said. “Therefore we must remain very cautious. Precaution is extremely relevant.”

For him, Bangladesh provides a complex picture. When he arrived three years ago, the political situation was hugely influenced by the January 2014 election.

Pierre Mayaudon. Photo: Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman

“There were agitations culminated from the election. The first quarter of 2015 was affected by that, many lost their lives. At the same time, the global economic situation was really excellent, remittance was growing and exports were still under the double-digit annual growth regime.”

Three years later, a kind of opposite situation prevails. The political scene is stable. On the economic side, anticipation is quite positive but remittances are shrinking which is a reality as reported in the media.

“Many interlocutors share their concern regarding the stagnation of RMG exports to the EU market.”

Mayaudon referred to the floods devastating the northern part of Bangladesh. “This is a human tragedy. I express my sympathy.”

Mayaudon said flooding is also potentially an economic phenomenon and called for collective efforts with assistance from EU to ensure the floods do not translate into socioeconomic difficulties.

“It’s not that everything was bad three years ago, and everything is fine now. It’s always a complex picture, multifaceted, which is also sign of a country on the move. There are challenges. But Bangladesh is in the right direction.”

The EU always expresses its concerns when it comes to human rights violations and shrinking of space for freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

“We are confident that progressively these messages will be translated into proper actions. Of course it takes time,” he said.

“We need to help each other, if we want to progress collectively. On the issues of the rule of law, violence and governance, we consider that it is critical to accompany Bangladesh’s civil society in their efforts,” he said, citing the roles of NGOs in Bangladesh.

He said the partnership with Bangladesh is already a long story and it goes beyond assistance.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher