The European Union is hoping the Election Commission will organise a credible election where everyone freely participates amid calls of boycotting the 12th parliamentary polls from BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and like-minded parties.
However, the EU did not have any questions regarding the call for boycott, protests over instalment of a caretaker government or hints of rescheduling the election.
The cut-off date for submitting nominations for the Jan 7 election is Thursday. Rejecting the schedule announced by the EC, the BNP and its allies have been observing hartals and transport blockades on days except Tuesdays and weekends.
On Wednesday, ambassadors from countries in the EU visited the Election Commission for a two-hour talk on Wednesday.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley later said: “We hope to see a democratic, credible, peaceful and a participatory election.”
“And we had a very wide range of exchanges over the preparation for the election. As an international partner to Bangladesh, we very much appreciate the opportunity to learn more insight of the preparation of the key election.”
“I’ve certainly had open discussion with the chief election commissioner and his team which is appreciated,” he added.
Jan Janowski, Chargé d'affaires (a.i) at the Embassy of Germany, said in a post on X: “[We had] frank and detailed exchange with the chief election commissioner and his team on the prospects of holding free, fair, participatory, and peaceful elections. [It’s] instrumental for us diplomats to understand the process and preparations being made.” (edited)
Later CEC Kazi Habibul Awal said: “EU representatives have come here multiple times before. They said an expert election team will also come on their behalf.”
“Meanwhile a four-member expert [election observation] team is already here. They received information about our election for a long time. They didn’t know that our preparations made headway. We’ve told them what progress we’ve made.”
“Like before, we made it clear to them that we’re trying our best to ensure a free, fair, peaceful and credible election.”
“We told [EU ambassador] that our election commissioners were visiting the district and divisional levels for two weeks. They are telling the administration and people about these matters so that local authorities can gather strength to ensure a free, fair and participatory election.”
The CEC said the EU was satisfied with the commission’s position.
“We made it very clear to them that we were legally and constitutionally bound to hold the election within a set time. I believe they were able to understand our constitutional limitations.”
Awal said the BNP’s demands for a non-partisan caretaker government was a “political issue”. The commission will not involve itself with political matters, he added.
According to the election schedule, the deadline to submit poll nominations is Nov 30, sorting from Dec 1-Dec 4 and the last date to withdraw nominations is on Dec 17.
The EU previously sent a pre-election investigation to Bangladesh in July. The team held meetings with the EC and other stakeholders.
On Sept 21, Election Commission Secretary Md Jahangir Alam said the EU decided to not send a full team to observe the election citing “budget limitations”.
On Sept 24, Awal sent a reply to the EU ambassador that the commission hoped that the EU would send even a small team.
In the latest development on Oct 19, Ashok Kumar Debnath, additional secretary to the EC, said the EU would send a four-member technical committee in November. It will observe the election atmosphere for two months from Nov 21 to Jan 21.