US monitoring electoral environment in Bangladesh amid political unrest: State Dept

The US will continue to engage with the government, opposition and other statekholders to ensure a peaceful election, says a State Department official

Published : 7 Nov 2023, 07:10 AM
Updated : 7 Nov 2023, 07:10 AM

The United States is in communication with Bangladesh's government and opposition parties to create a conducive environment for peaceful and participatory elections amid simmering political tensions in the country.

Washington is also concerned about the political violence roiling Bangladesh in the lead up to the 12th national polls and is keeping a close eye on the electoral environment, according to Vedant Patel, a US State Department spokesperson.

"We continue to closely monitor the electoral environment in Bangladesh leading up to this January’s election, and we take any incidents of violence incredibly seriously," Patel said at a press briefing in Washington on Monday.

"We are engaging and will continue to engage with the government, with opposition parties, with civil society, and other stakeholders to urge them to work together for the benefit of the Bangladeshi people"

During the briefing, Patel was also asked about an individual who claimed to be an adviser to President Joe Biden and spoke at the BNP offices in Dhaka on Oct 28.

The US Embassy in Dhaka subsequently distanced itself from the individual and said he did not represent the US government.

Addressing the issue, Patel said, "I’ve not seen that report. And I’m going to be honest – I really have no idea what you’re talking about."

"We have an incredibly talented team at our embassy in Dhaka, led by an experienced ambassador who is well-versed not just working in Bangladesh, but also the broader region largely. And as I have said, we are closely monitoring their electoral environment in Bangladesh, leading up to January's election."

The political temperature in Bangladesh has been rising in recent weeks as the BNP, the country's largest opposition group, continues to press ahead with its campaign to replace the Awami League government with a non-partisan one during the election.

As part of its campaign, the BNP organised a mass rally at Dhaka's Naya Paltan on Oct 28. But the event was marred by deadly clashes with the police, leading the opposition group to declare a hartal for Oct 29.

They subsequently enforced a nationwide blockade from Oct 31 to Nov 2, with a one-day break. At the end of the shutdown, another 48-hour blockade was announced for Sunday and Monday.

The BNP's call for a blockade garnered support from like-minded parties, and Jamaat-e-Islami, a long-time ally of the party, initiated a similar programme separately.

Several cases have been filed with different police stations across Dhaka. Top BNP leaders, including Altaf, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Mirza Abbas, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, Abdul Awal Mintu, and Barkat Ullah Bulu, have been named in cases related to the violence.

Daily reports of vehicles being set on fire have marked the ongoing strike and blockade programmes, leading to property damage and loss of lives.