The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) cancelled its plan to monitor the upcoming 11th parliamentary election as international observers. Due to significant delays in accreditation approval by the Election Commission and visa approvals by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ANFREL was forced to terminate its observation mission in Bangladesh on December 22. The international organization expressed dismay over how the Bangladesh authorities have handled the accreditation application process in a press release.
ANFREL formally requested accreditation for observing the December 30 election as early as November 4 and submitted all necessary accreditation requirements to the Election Commission by November 26. As of December 21, nine days before the polls, ANFREL was granted accreditation for only 13 observers out of the 32 applications it submitted. The US Embassy in Dhaka expressed its disappointment over the Bangladesh government’s inability to grant credentials and issue visas to the majority of international election monitors within the time frame necessary.
With five days to go, the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront demanded immediate resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner and urged the president to appoint a nonpolitical and neutral person in the post. “We are demanding immediate removal of Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda and urging the president to appoint a non-political and neutral person as the CEC for the sake of the free and fair election,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said while making the demand. Fakhrul was talking to reporters after an emergency meeting with the alliance leaders at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office.
Meanwhile HT Imam, co-chairman of Awami League Election Steering Committee, speaking on the same day claimed five AL men were killed and over 350 supporters were injured since the election campaign began on December 10. “We are getting information of attacks on our leaders, activists and supporters every moment by the BNP-Jamaat men," he said at a press conference at the newly inaugurated media centre of the AL central office in Dhaka.
The mammoth deployment of the military across the country was completed on December 24 to help the Election Commission and civil administration ensure law and order before, during and after the general election slated for December 30. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda hoped that voters will get back their confidence with the deployment of army while Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said Army took positions in districts to discharge their duties for the sake of a free and fair election.
Jatiya Oikyafront Chief Dr Kamal Hossain said the army has been entrusted with a tough task to create an atmosphere for a free, fair, credible and inclusive election, and hoped that they will uphold their neutrality. The deployment of members of Bangladesh Army in 389 upazila and Bangladesh Navy men in 18 coastal upazilas concluded by 8am, said military intelligence sources. Besides, Border Guard Bangladesh members were deployed in 87 bordering upazilas alongside other designated areas. However the main opposition party BNP, one day after the army’s deployment, alleged that it is not making a difference in ensuring fair election atmosphere in the country.
The Election Commission started sending ballot papers to districts to arrange the 11th parliamentary elections on December 30. The EC will send the ballot papers to 293 constituencies out of total 300. Of the remaining seven parliamentary seats, the EC will use electronic voting machines (EVMs) instead of ballot papers in six while election to Gaibandha-3 has been postponed following the death of the Jatiya Oikyafront candidate.
The EC started dispatching ballot papers from two government presses -- Bangladesh Government (BG) Press and Government Printing Press-- said EC assistant secretary Syed Golam Rashed. The returning officers would receive the ballot papers in most of the constituencies, adding that ballot papers for the constituencies having legal complexities over candidates will be sent later. The EC has kept two helicopters ready for sending the ballot papers on emergency basis. The ballot papers will be sent to upazila level 2-3 days before the election and to polling stations a day before of the election.