BANGLADESH ELECTORAL INTEGRITY IN DOUBT, ANOTHER THREAT FOR THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY
December 24th , 2018 –Seoul
The Asia Democracy Network (ADN) expresses deep concern to the ongoing suppression and lack of transparency of the Bangladesh electoral process. The country is preparing for its General elections to be held on December 30 th , 2018 and over 100 Million people are expected to cast their vote. However, there have been reports of suppression towards rights activists and the opposition party leading up to Election Day. The pre-polls are marred with allegation of systematic fraud undermining free and fair elections applied by the authority. The Election Commission have contributed to the loss of integrity of the election by delaying or not issuing credentials to independent election monitors casting doubt to the fair electoral environment raising allegations that the polls may be controlled for the benefit of the ruling party.
Civil society actors, journalists, and members of the opposition have indicated that their activities has been suppressed, victimized, and assaulted by authority and that its groups have sided with the government or the ruling party. Thousands of politicians and rights activist have been attacked and arrested after the election date was announced early this year. The government has failed to guarantee the freedom to exercise the right to participate
in the election.
Electoral transparency is also in doubt as the election commission is accused of having a lack of interest in accommodating or accrediting independent observers. The only international election observers’ group in Asia—ANFREL (Asian Network for Free Elections) recently have terminated its mission due to delay by the authorities in providing accreditation and visas to their observers. This delay seriously harms the mission operation methodology and forces the group to terminate its mission with deep regret. ANFREL also expressed a concern
toward its national monitoring groups as they also faced similar delays. The Bangladesh Election Commission’s (BEC) lack of ability to respond to a simple clerical process of accreditation issuance which raises suspicion that the ruling party has a significant influence in the elections. It is vital that the electoral process is professional to ensure transparency and integrity of the polls.
The current Bangladesh electoral situation is integral in implying the future of democracy of the country. Previously in 2014, the poll was boycotted by the main opposition, Bangladesh National Party (BNP) causing bloodshed, sparked continuous violence, street protests which led to loss of lives and the damage of public property. This time the opposition is participating but risks of violence still remain huge. This threat of violence indicates that the Bangladesh government missed a great opportunity to hold a free, fair, and safe election, which could have simultaneously brought democracy back on track.
With the clear indication of suppression during the pre-polls, ADN views that the integrity of the elections has been compromised. “The elections are not only about the polling day, but also overall the electoral process starting from the preparation, during, and end of the elections. The environment which includes the independence of the Election Commission, fear free environment for people to express political views and participate in every electoral phase is also vital. “A democracy cannot be built without the people’s trust in the electoral integrity and accountability” said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General of Asia Democracy Network who is also an electoral expert in Asia.
The Asia Democracy Network expresses deep concerns of the future of Bangladesh’s democracy. The country has suffered political instability, with terrors and violence and the rights violations being common in daily life. ADN urges the authority and ruling party to let the rest of the poll process proceed with the respect to basic rights. ADN also urges the international community to keep their eyes on what is going on in Bangladesh and hope for the elections to be completed without violence and with respect to human rights.