The United States on Thursday stressed the need for resolving core problems to hold a credible and participatory national election by the end of the year.
‘We are very concerned regarding the national election this year,’ US ambassador Mercia Bernicat said, expressing her hope that the government would fulfil its commitment to hold free, fair, participatory and credible election addressing the core problems.
Bernicat was speaking at a function organised by Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
Replying to questions on the atmosphere of holding credible elections, she said that the US is concerned by reports of alleged irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of political players and polling agents before and on the day of the vote, in both Khulna and Gazipur municipality elections.
People cannot participate fully and fairly in the electoral process, she said, if they are arrested before the polls and intimidated on the way to polling booths or asked to vote in a certain way.
People have witnessed ballot stuffing or people who arrive to find that their votes have already been cast, the ambassador said, adding that all of these practices ‘rob the citizens from being able to express their voice in full democratic manner.’
Bernicat, however, stressed the need for participation of all major political parties in the next polls. ‘If your party and you don’t participate, you are not playing an obligated role in a democracy.’
She appreciated that violence was less on the polling dates in recent polls in spite of arrest of opposition leaders, polling agents, and obstacles from going to the polls.
The ambassador stressed the need for the government to go after the kingpins in drug trafficking instead of remaining focused on drug dealers at the lower level.
Stressing the need for repatriation of Rohingya people to Myanmar and ensuring accountability of persons involved in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state, she said that the solution to the problem ‘rests in bringing the military’ not only to account but getting them to change the very dangerous, cruel and inhumane policy leading to extremism and instability in the region, even elsewhere in Burma.
DCAB president Rezaul Karim Lotus and general secretary Mahfuzur Rahman Mishu also spoke at the function attended by senior US embassy officials.
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