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Commonwealth observer team ‘satisfied’ with poll preparations

Special Correspondent.
November 19, 2023 12:43 pm
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Election Commission Secretary said that the pre-election observation team of the Commonwealth Secretariat has “expressed satisfaction” after knowing the election procedure, rules and voting management of the 12th Parliament election. Jahangir Alam. In addition, Linford Andrews, a member of the delegation of the Commonwealth Secretariat, told reporters that the “discussions” with the Election Commission have been good.

The pre-election observation team of the Commonwealth Secretariat held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal at the Agargaon election building in the capital on Sunday (November 19) morning.

Four Election Commissioners, EC Secretary and Joint Secretary were present along with the CEC in this meeting in the conference room of the Election Building. The Commonwealth delegation included Zippy Ojago, Executive Officer of the Electoral Cooperation Division of the Political Department of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Lindiwi Maleleka, Political Adviser at the Governance and Peace Directorate, Sarthak Roy, Associate Research Officer and Linford Andrews, Head of the Electoral Cooperation Division of the Governance and Peace Directorate.

At the end of the meeting, EC Secretary Jahangir presented the contents of the discussion and the opinions of the observers to the journalists. He said that apart from the Election Commission, the Commonwealth observers will return to London after meeting with the relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs. Whether a full Commonwealth observer team will come to observe the January 7 parliamentary election will depend on that report. The EC Secretary said that there was no discussion about the political situation of the country with the delegation.

The representatives of the Commonwealth Secretariat completed this pre-arranged meeting with the EC four days after the announcement of the schedule by fixing the date of the parliamentary elections on January 7. While they are meeting, the BNP is going on a 48-hour strike across the country to protest the ‘unilateral’ schedule announcement. Commonwealth representatives will stay in Dhaka till November 23 on this visit. In addition to the Election Commission, he will meet with the relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.

EC Secretary after the meeting of the Election Commission. Jahangir Alam said, this delegation is the advance party of the Commonwealth. After knowing the situation, they will go to the Commonwealth Secretariat and submit a report. After receiving the report, he will decide whether to agree to the full Commonwealth team coming to observe the election, not knowing.

In response to a question, he said that there was no discussion with them about the political situation. They only want to be informed about election procedures, election procedures and election laws, regulations, vote management, what arrangements are made for disabled voters, postal ballots for those involved in election activities and expatriates, and vehicle management on polling day. These issues have been presented to them by CEC and Election Commissioner. The visiting delegation expressed satisfaction with this.

Stating that it was a bilateral discussion, Jahangir Alam said, “They wanted to know something, I brought it up.” Their job is to know about the election system of Bangladesh. They did not ask any other questions. Wanted to know how the voters will go to vote in the election system of the country, how the vote will be taken, to make the vote transparent, he has known the work of everyone including the returning officer and the voting system.

Secretary Jahangir Alam said that the delegation has not given any idea about how many members the Commonwealth team can come in the future. He said, today the advance team of four members has arrived here. They will look at the situation (headquarters) and report, then finalize and inform us.

After the meeting, Linford Andrews, Head of the Electoral Cooperation Branch of the Governance and Peace Directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that sending observers to any country of the Commonwealth member states to assess the pre-election situation is one of their practices. We work with several objectives. As part of this, discussions will be held with various stakeholders including the Election Commission. In addition to being informed about the overall preparations ahead of the January 7 election, we are also observing the prevailing environment.

Thanking the commission, Andrews said, “We had a very good discussion.” I got to know how much preparation has been done. Looking ahead, we will also have discussions with stakeholders. We are supposed to leave on November 22. I will then report to the Commonwealth Secretary General with recommendations. He did not want to comment on the current situation.