MOFA terms ANFREL statement biased, stating polls free, fair

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DHAKA, Dec 30, 2019 (BSS) – The Ministry of Foreign affairs (MOFA) today termed the Joint Statement of ANFREL-affiliated organizations not only premature also biased and premeditated declaring the polls free and fair.

“The Joint Statement of ANFREL-affiliated organizations issued on 29 December 2018 is not only premature; it’s terming of election environment as ‘restrictive’ is based on misinformation and premeditated assumptions,” the ministry said in a statement after the timeline of vote casting.

The statement said the 11th parliament election is 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.

On Saturday, ANFREL issued a statement falsely alleging that “restrictive electoral environment” is prevailing in Bangladesh surrounding the elections.

The foreign ministry statement said total 174 foreign observers, 65 foreign journalists from countries and organizations are observing today’s election.

In addition, 25,900 local observers from 81 organizations and 7000-8000 local media personnel are also observing the polls, it added.

“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 21 December 2018, it said adding the rest of the applications were under process before ANFREL unilaterally decided to withdraw its mission.

Moreover, 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 statement observed.

It referred a recent press conference in Dhaka where the EU delegation said 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 statement said 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).

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 of December 30) election campaigns have witnessed significantly low incidents of violence.

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.

As regards the law and order situation, the statement said 1,328 executive magistrates and 244 judicial magistrates have been 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).

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, it said. The number of arrestees mentioned by ANFREL is baseless, misleading and exaggerated, it added.

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

For the 11th parliament elections, it has already deployed 66 Returning Officers, 40,183 Presiding Officers and 414,624 Polling Officers to help 10,42,38,677 voters to cast their votes, it added.

The 11th parliament 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, the statement said.

The people of the country earnestly hope that the 11th Parliament Election will be yet another milestone in Bangladesh’s journey to sustained high economic growth, prosperity and inclusion in a democratic environment, it said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated her commitment to accept people’s verdict, said the statement.

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