Foreign observers, journos monitoring election in Bangladesh : Ministry of Foreign Affairs .

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has described the joint statement of ANFREL-affiliated organisations issued on Saturday as “premature” and criticised it saying its comment was based on “misinformation and premeditated assumptions.”

In a statement issued at 12:07pm on Sunday, the ministry said the 11th national election was being held in a free, fair, festive and peaceful manner in full exercise of the people’s voting rights despite “biased speculations” by many quarters, including ANFREL.

‘Odhikar’, an NGO of Bangladesh, is the founding member of the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

Earlier the ministry said, “Odhikar is widely known for its disproportionate bias and prejudice against Bangladesh, in particular the government of Awami League, which is evident in its various reports, including the recent ones published in October and December 2018.”

A total of 174 foreign observers and 65 foreign journalists from various countries and organisations observed Sunday’s election, said the MoFA.

Some 25,900 local observers from 81 organisations and 7000-8000 local media personnel are also observing and covering the election.

The election is being conducted by the independent Election Commission, which has over the last five years (2012-2017) successfully organised 6,937 elections at the national and local levels against 4,808 electoral posts, said the Ministry.

The ministry said the people of the country earnestly hope that this election will be yet another milestone in Bangladesh’s journey to sustained high economic growth, prosperity and inclusion in a democratic environment.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reiterated her commitment to accept people’s verdict, it said.

The EC deployed 66 returning officers, 40,183 presiding officers and 414,624 polling officers to help 10,42,38,677 voters to cast their votes.

Some 1,328 executive magistrates and 244 judicial magistrates were deployed in the polling centers along with 6,08,000 law enforcing personnel from Police, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said it was possible due to prompt and efficient facilitation by the Election Commission.

ANFREL itself has mentioned in its statement that 13 of its 32 observers were already accredited by December 21, 2018, the MoFA said.

The rest of the applications were under process before ANFREL unilaterally decided to withdraw its mission.

Besides, less number of foreign observers does not ‘indicate a common feeling of discouragement’; rather several international partners see it as a positive development for Bangladesh’s democratic process and role of the Election Commission, the MoFA said.

The EU delegation has recently stated in a press conference in Dhaka that Bangladesh is capable of following its own rules to conduct a free and fair election and “therefore we don’t need to send observers.”

The information on the electoral violence provided by ANFREL ignores the fact that these have arisen mainly out of intra-party rivalries within BNP itself aggravated by multiple nominations given by BNP against one seat (696 candidates against 300 seats), according to MoFA.

Besides, since December 1, the electoral violence by BNP-Jamaat has so far caused death of 11 Awami League workers (05 killed on the eve of the election night violence) and one ANSAR member and injury to 450 people, including presiding officers.

However, compared to previous general elections that witnessed extreme violence and arson, so far (till morning, 30 December 2018) election campaigns have witnessed significantly low incidents of violence, MoFA said.

According to a study by Dhaka University based think tank, pre-election violence in previous elections caused death of 90 individuals (average) whereas the 11th parliament election has seen much less deaths and violence.

In respect of the sweeping allegations of arrests and harassment of opposition leaders and others, it is reiterated that no arrest has been made on false or fresh charges; rather they have been arrested on specific criminal charges, said MoFA adding that the number of arrestees mentioned by ANFREL is baseless, misleading and exaggerated.

This election is being monitored by the local and international observers, vibrant media, active civil society and conscious citizens of Bangladesh, who would help the country’s democratic process, regardless of false accusations and biased assumptions of vested quarters.

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