U.S. to send observers to Bangladesh election amid opposition concerns

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U.S. to send observers to Bangladesh election amid opposition concerns

DHAKA (Reuters) – The United States will send 12 groups of observers and fund hundreds of home observers to observe an election in Bangladesh it hopes might be unfastened and honest, a senior respectable on the U.S. embassy in Dhaka mentioned.

Amid opposition concerns about rigging within the Dec. 30 basic election, there was hypothesis about U.S. plans for it, particularly after the European Union this week mentioned it will now not send observers, nor remark at the vote or end result.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is looking for a 3rd immediately time period.

Her previous rival, Khaleda Zia, who leads the primary opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in prison after being convicted on fees she says had been politically motivated. Scores of BNP staff have additionally been detained.

The BNP boycotted the final election, in 2014, as unfair, however has mentioned it is going to participate this time, although it is looking for global displays of polls it says it believes might be mistaken.

The United States is sending a dozen groups, each and every of about two observers, who will fan out to maximum portions of the rustic, William Moeller, political officer on the U.S. embassy in Dhaka, instructed Reuters.

“The Bangladesh government has emphasized that it plans to hold a free and fair election,” Moeller mentioned this week.

“We welcome that and are providing funding for election observers who hope to see such an outcome.”

Moeller referred to studies of harassment and intimidation ahead of contemporary town company elections, which he mentioned could have suppressed voter turnout.

“We raised these concerns at the time, so we are hoping we won’t see the same issues in the national elections.”

The U.S. National Democratic Institute mentioned after an evaluate in October the polls could be held “amid a high degree of political polarization, heightened tensions and shrinking political space”.

The Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Elections will send a crew of about 30 short- and long-term observers, Moeller mentioned.

About 15,000 Bangladeshi observers might be funded collectively by means of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Britain’s Department for International Development and the Swiss govt, he mentioned.

The home observers would unfold out however is probably not ready to succeed in each polling station, he mentioned.

PLAYING DOWN WORRIES

Hasina and Khaleda have alternated in energy over the past 28 years. Elections in Bangladesh are ceaselessly violent and marred by means of ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation.

Hasina’s Awami League has held energy since 2009 and distributed from 2014 with a convention of letting a impartial caretaker govt oversee elections, to the anger of the BNP.

The govt has dismissed opposition fears of rigging.

“I don’t see any possibility this time, because all the parties are participating, and all of them will have their election agents,” mentioned HT Imam, a political adviser to Hasina.

Bangladesh has observed secure financial expansion beneath Hasina and the advance of a colourful garment sector under-pinning export expansion, and accounting for 80 % of the economic system.

But rights teams have criticized expanding curbs on freedom of speech and the media.

Hope to capitalize on dissatisfaction, the BNP has shaped an alliance with smaller events referred to as the National Unity Front and Hasina mentioned this week she anticipated aggressive polls.

The EU delegation in Dhaka mentioned it used to be now not sending observers as a result of rising call for for them amid tight assets.

India had no plan to send observers until Bangladesh requested, an respectable on the Indian High Commission mentioned.

Additional reporting by means of Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by means of Robert Birsel

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