Three international organisations have already expressed their interest to observe the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh, said the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday (8th November 2023). Compact teams from these organizations have submitted applications to observe the elections, confirmed by the Election Commission (EC).
The international organisations are European Union (EU), Commonwealth and NDI (National Democratic Institute).
Among these election observers, the pre-election assessment mission of the Commonwealth will hold a meeting with the EC on November 19. Besides, pre-election evaluation teams from two other organisations have already arrived in Bangladesh and held meetings with the EC.
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Regarding the foreign observer issue, EC Secretary Jahangir Alam told the press yesterday (9th November 2023) that three organizations have officially informed with the Election Commission, confirming their assurance to monitor the electoral process. Notably, one of these entities is a U.S.-based institution, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which has conducted a thorough pre-assessment. The European Union has previously expressed its intent and, most recently, has requested a meeting with a team from the Commonwealth to engage with the Election Commission. Secretary Alam emphasized that foreign observers are encouraged to submit their applications by November 21.
Participation of Foreign Observer
Following the 2018 elections, concerns regarding the credibility of the Election Monitoring Forum and the SAARC Human Rights Foundation, the bodies entrusted with overseeing the electoral process, have been voiced by both nationals and foreign entities.
On August 23, the commission issued a notice, inviting applications from international observers and media to monitor the 12th parliamentary elections, with a deadline set for November 21, 2023.
In a proactive outreach effort, the Foreign Ministry dispatched letters to foreign missions and embassies, explicitly conveying those invitations to international observers and foreign media personnel are extended on behalf of the commission.
Highlighting the international aspect of electoral scrutiny, CEC Kazi Habibul Awal announced the impending arrival of the Commonwealth pre-election observation team in Dhaka, scheduled for November 19-23.
International election observers are obligated to submit reports within 30 days of polling day, drawing on pre-election, election, and post-election data. These reports must adhere to the established policies of the Election Commission, maintaining impartiality, objectivity, and the highest quality.
On 9th November 2023, in a meeting at the Bangabhaban, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal disclosed that President Mohammed Shahabuddin expressed contentment with the Election Commission’s (EC) comprehensive preparations for the upcoming 12th National Assembly elections. As the nation gears up for the crucial event, President Shahabuddin affirmed his support and cooperation with the EC, highlighting the imperative of adhering to the stipulated time frame for the election. The approaching period leading up to January carries the potential for pivotal variables that could influence the final outcome of the election.
Foreign nationals must comply with the laws of the host country
Foreign observers intending to participate in monitoring the upcoming elections are expected to comply with the existing laws of Bangladesh, in addition to adhering to the election observation guidelines established by the Election Commission.
In past electoral cycles, both the European Union (EU) and the United States refrained from dispatching observers to the 11th and 10th parliamentary elections held in 2018 and 2014. Their decisions were influenced by apprehensions regarding the legitimacy of these two electoral processes.
During the 11th parliamentary elections, a substantial number of observers were present, including 25,900 representatives from 81 domestic observer organizations. Moreover, 38 foreign observers (invited from organizations such as FEMBoSA, AAEA, OIC, and the Commonwealth), 64 officials from various foreign missions, and 61 individuals affiliated with embassies and foreign organizations participated in the observation process.
The 10th parliamentary elections, marked by the non-participation of several parties, experienced a lower observer count. Conducted on January 5, 2014, this election saw the involvement of only 4 foreign observers and 8,874 individuals from 35 local organizations in monitoring the voting process.
Over the years, diverse election scenarios have witnessed varying levels of observer presence. For example, the 2008 elections involved 593 foreign observers and 159,113 domestic observers. In 2001, there were 225 foreign observers and 218,000 domestic observers. Similarly, the 1996 elections saw approximately 40,000 domestic observers and 265 foreign observers. In 1991, around 30,000 domestic observers and 59 foreign observers were present during the voting process.
In conclusion, the configuration of Bangladesh’s electoral administration, the resilience of the political opposition, and the influence of U.S. diplomacy emerge as critical focal points leading up to the highly significant upcoming election in Bangladesh.