UN sees Bangladesh's December parliamentary polls fair

Other News Materials 29 November 2008 19:05 (UTC +04:00)

A United Nations assessment team wrapping up a seven-day mission in Dhaka on Saturday said the chances for a smooth electoral transition to democracy in Bangladesh next month were "positive", dpa reported.

"Things are looking positive. There is no reason to doubt the cooperation from the political parties, caretaker government, electoral commission. Bangladesh will have a good election," said Francesc Vendrell, the head of three-member UN panel, at a press conference assessing Bangladesh's preparedness for the December 29 polls.

The panel, which will report its findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, arrived in Dhaka on November 23 and held a series of meetings with the leaders of major political parties, members of the election commission, government officials, the civil society members and diplomats.

Vendrell said the caretaker government assured the team that it would lift the state of emergency after December 11 to allow electioneering go into full-swing.

"We would, of course, say the most important thing for the election is that political freedoms are in place: that there is freedom of speech, there is freedom of assembly, (that the election is) free from violence and intimidation," said the former UN assistant secretary general.

"It seems to an outsider it would make sense to lift the state of emergency," he said, stating that the chances of a credible election were much higher now than they were nearly two years ago, when the general election was postponed in the wake of the imposition of a state of emergency on January 11, 2007.

Bangladesh's general election, which was originally scheduled for January 22, 2007, is now rescheduled to December 29, 2008 to bring to an end to the two years of emergency rule led by interim government head Fakhruddin Ahmed.

A similar election assessment team from the European Union, after weeks of pre-election monitoring, on Friday termed Bangladesh's emergency rule a negative factor for credible polls.

The team led by Alexander Graf Lambsdoff hoped that that the military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed would lift the state of emergency well before the general election.