Emergency negative factor to credible polls in B'desh: EU observer

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Dhaka, Nov 28 (UNI) Chief Observer of EU Election Observation mission Alexander Graf Lambsdoff today termed state of emergency a negative factor for a credible election in Bangladesh and said the role of army in election process was non-existent.

''It is not ideal to begin an election process under state of Emergency. We hope the Emergency will be lifted at some point of the election process to ensure a clean environment for election,'' he told a crowded media conference as Bangladesh goes to general election to elect the ninth Parliament on December 29.

Mr Lambsdroff said had there not been relaxation of Emergency rules, removing restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression recently, they would not be here for full observation of the elections scheduled on December 29.

He repeatedly expressed the hope that the Emergency would be lifted before the elections and referred to Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury's public remarks after a meeting with him.

Asked about the outcome of his meetings with political parties, Mr Lambsdroff, a Member of European Parliament (MEP), said he found consensus among the stakeholders that elections should take place.

He said in all, 150 EU election observers would be deployed on the election day. Already a core team of nine experts and 46 long-term observers are working across the country. They will be joined by 88 short-term observers shortly before the election day.

The election observation mission would announce a preliminary report two days after the election and a detailed report after two months of the election with recommendation for changes, if needed, for future elections.

He said the EU election observation mission is independent and would observe the laws of the land and its enforcement as well as the best practices of the international standard, as Bangladesh prescribes the international convention on civil and political rights.

Asked about the role of army in the election, the EU Parliament member said as such, the role of army in the election process is non-existent, other than providing security. He, however, said the authorities would take the decision whether they would exclusively use police for security and safety of participants in the elections process or deploy army for that purpose.

Any law enforcing agency must be respected to ensure free and fair election where electorates could cast their votes in a free environment without any intimidation, he added.

Asked whether they would pull out from observation if the Emergency is not lifted, he said the EU observation mission would focus whether a genuine atmosphere is there where campaign goes freely, and safety and security of all stakeholders engaged in the elections are guaranteed. ''We hope the state of Emergency can be lifted,'' he said.

About boycott of election by any major party, Mr Lambsdroff said it would be an unfortunate development, as Bangladesh should return to full-fledged democracy and all should participate.

UNI XC SKB AS1848

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