United States just wants free and fair election in Bangladesh


Finally, a senior official of the Biden administration has clearly stated what we have been saying for months – Washington is not concerned about participation of any particular party in Bangladesh’s next general elections but it wants the polls to be fair and held in a congenial environment.

Commenting on Bangladesh’s upcoming general elections, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Afreen Akhter told state-owned news agency BSS, “We are not making a comment on whether or not elections are participatory, more we are focused on electoral environment (in Bangladesh)”.

She added “ultimately it is up to (political) parties themselves to decide” if they would participate in the elections and “again we are not commenting whether it (requires to be) participatory”.

The senior US diplomat said her country was “not interfering or weighing in with any particular party or candidate” though “we are working to support the electoral environment here”.

Akhter’s comments came as asked if BNP or any other particular party’s election participation would concern Washington.

“Let me emphasize that the United State does not support any political party, any candidate, any individual” Akhter said adding “we are not seeking to mediate in your (Bangladesh) election (either)”.

Afreen Akhter currently serves in the US state department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

The US official said being a democracy itself the US supports democracies worldwide as it believes the democratic system of government is the best one while this principle prompts her country to support civil societies and democratic institutions across the globe.

“We want to ensure that civil society has the space to express themselves freely, the political opposition has the space to express themselves freely and again the democratic institution that allow for free and fair election environment are in place,” she said.

The US state department official said Washington has decided to send a pre-election observer mission to Bangladesh in the coming months but could not confirm exact timeframe of the mission’s tour.

“The United States is going to be supporting a pre-elections observation mission (in Bangladesh) in the coming months, as Prime Minister Hasina welcomed election observers”, Akhter said.

The US official said on receipt of the US pre-election observer mission report, Washington would make an assessment and decide if it would send an observer team in Bangladesh during the upcoming election.

Commenting on Afreen Akhtar’s comment, where she categorically said, Washington is not concerned about participation of any particular party in Bangladesh’s next general elections, a senior policymaker in Washington told me, “For the United States, India is an important ally when it is a matter of anything related to the region. While Bangladesh Nationalist Party is already branded as an Islamist force and its ideological partner Jamaat-e-Islami as inclined towards jihadist bloc, Washington does not want to appear as a villain by unnecessarily siding with either BNP or Jamaat in the next general election. It only wants the next general election to be free and fair, which has already been repeatedly reaffirmed by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and senior officials of the government. We just want a free and fair election in Bangladesh and do not want to see repetition of another rigged election. In this case, we believe, Bangladesh’s ruling party will ensure it. At the same time, Washington or Biden administration cannot play the role of a mediator in favor of BNP or any other party. It is up to policymakers of BNP to decide whether it wants to participate in the next general election. It is absolutely up to them”.

The policymaker further said, “Every development partner of Bangladesh wants it to be ruled by an elected government while we also want Bangladesh’s democracy to flourish and strengthen. At the same time, we also want Bangladesh’s ongoing pace of progress to continue without any hurdle”.

It may be mentioned here that, Bangladesh Nationalist Party has been strongly upholding anti-India and anti-West ideologies. It supports radical Islam and favors Bangladesh to become an Islamic state.

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