Foreign observers including those from the USA, Canada and Russia, who witnessed the 12th general election of Bangladesh on Sunday, termed the polls as free, fair, peaceful, successful and legitimate.
“I found the election as very peaceful, free, and fair,” said Jim Bates, US Member of Congress, at a press conference at a city hotel on Sunday.
A good number of foreign observers who visited different polling centres in the capital and adjacent districts shared their experiences at the press conference.
The foreign observers who spoke at the press conference were member of the central election commission of the Russian Federation Andrey Y Shutov, CEO of Central Election Commission, Palestine, Hisham Kuhail, Mohamadou Musa Njie of Gambia High Commission, Scottish MP Martyn Day, Head of Election Unit, OIC Shakir Mahmood Bandar, Member of Arab Parliament Abdihakim Moalliam, Executive Director of South Asia Democratic Forum Paulo Casaca, Victor OH and Chandrakanth Arya of Canada.
About the voter turnout of about 40 percent, Jim said the election in Bangladesh has the shortest voting hours stretching from 8:00am to 4:00pm compared to other countries of the world. He, however, said the voting hours in many countries stretch up to 9:00pm from the morning while in California the voting starts one month before the polls.
CEO of American Global Strategies Alexander B Gray while sharing his experiences after visiting 10 polling centres said, “I saw with my own eyes that the election was free and fair which was professionally administered having high degree of enthusiasm from the voters, polling staffs and others concerned.”
He said not a single voter or anyone expressed their concerns and complaints to him.
“This election met the highest standards of democratic accountability and professionalism and I’m very much convinced that the Election Commission has operated professionally with integrity,” he added.
Member of the central election commission of the Russian Federation Andrey Y Shutov in response to a query said that the voters were very active in Bangladesh and thus all candidates and voters were involved in the political process.
“These determent people can decide the future of this country and it makes us to think that this election is legitimate,” he added.
Shutov said he was impressed by the openness and transparency of the election while each voter got all the information about polls.
“This election was open and transparent and we think that the electoral system in Bangladesh is efficient. Bangladesh has a long tradition of elections …the political process of Bangladesh is developing in a stable way,” he added.
Chandrakanth Arya of Canada said that a record number of over 1900 candidates representing some 28 political parties took part in the election where all the candidates have free access to people and there was no hindrance in campaigning on their own behalf.
“We would like to congratulate the Election Commission for conducting a very free, fair and successful election. I would like to recognise and commend the excellent work of the election commission in marshalling all the government institutions of the state in delivering a free, fair, peaceful and successful election,” he added.
When asked about the boycotting of the polls by BNP, Arya said boycotting polls is the tactical or strategic decision of that political party in their own interest. “It’s not our job to comment on the judgment of that decision.”
About the election process, he said, “The process was free, so we accepted it.”
Scottish MP Martin Day said that the polls day operations were very smooth and quite impressive although the voter turnout was a bit low.
Executive director of South Asia Democratic Forum Paulo Casaca said that the electoral process is very good, marvellous and magnificent in Bangladesh adding that Bangladesh is much furthering in the process of democracy than in any other country.
Replying to a question, he said that the caretaker government system is fundamentally a non-democratic system and it was first founded in 1985 in Pakistan followed by in Bangladesh for a couple of times.
Recalling his experiences in Bangladesh back in 2014, the former Portuguese MP said he had then seen the burnt bodies of many people including drivers, children in the hospitals who were the victims of arson attacks during that time in the name of movement.
“We’ve to break this logic of violence…democracy is of course a choice, but it can’t be toxic polarization,” he added.
CEO of central election commission, Palestine, Hisham Kuhail, said, “What we saw today is a good voting process in a voting day…nobody forces anyone to vote,”
He also observed that the election process was quiet and peaceful, there was efficient use of available resources, the presiding officers were competent while the participants were very happy with the voting process.