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No EU poll team to Bangladesh amid vote worries

September 22, 2023

DHAKA: The European Union will not deploy a full election observer team to Bangladesh citing a lack of “necessary conditions”, and prompting the opposition on Thursday to declare the polls would not be fair.

Bangladesh is set to hold its general election by the first week of January, and several Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate, where the ruling party dominates the legislature.

The South Asian nation´s opposition has staged a series of protests demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign and let a neutral caretaker government hold the vote.

Hasina´s Awami League has ruled the world´s eighth-most populous country since 2009 and has been accused of human rights abuses and corruption. EU ambassador Charles Whiteley said the bloc would not deploy a “fully-fledged” observer mission, according to a copy of a letter sent to Bangladesh´s election commissioner on Wednesday, and seen by AFP on Thursday.

Whitely said that while the EU took into account budget constraints, the decision also “reflects the fact that at the present time, it is not sufficiently clear whether the necessary conditions will be met”, without giving further details.

It added that the EU is “exploring other options to accompany the electoral process”. Bangladesh Election Commission Secretary Jahangir Alam told AFP on Thursday the EU´s decision was due to a “budgetary reason”.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party welcomed the move, saying the EU decision highlights that “there is no environment for elections” in the country. “There will be no elections in Bangladesh without a neutral government,” BNP spokesman Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told reporters.

The EU is Bangladesh´s largest trade partner. The country is a global garment manufacturer, and more than half of its $55 billion export merchandise is shipped to the 27-member bloc.