Brigadier General M Sakhawat Hossain (Retd)

The Election Commission finds itself in a challenging situation. They have nothing to do. They are preparing for elections. The commission is constrained by the constitution. Their only viable course of action could be to declare that they would not conduct a one-sided election. 

However, the commission is preparing for the election in its own way. In the current situation, holding an election will bring discredit instead of credit to any election commission. The EC can argue, what else could they do?

Morally, the Election Commission can take many actions, even if they might not have legal avenues. This perspective is clear from an external viewpoint. However, those who are in charge face limitations, and ultimately, the decision has to be made by the government. 

The international community has already formed the perception that there won't be a fair election. The past two elections didn't go as planned. The government is struggling to assure the people and political parties that this time it will be different.

Consequently, the European Union (EU) has made the decision to not dispatch an observer team. If the government proceeds with the election under these circumstances, it's likely to result in yet another one-sided election. 

We're already facing substantial international pressure. Various lists of individuals regarding potential sanctions are circulating. However, if the election lacks credibility and significant political parties, which hold the potential to form the government, choose not to participate, that election will not be acknowledged. Instead, it may lead to further restrictions. This is my assumption. 

Another point to consider is that the presence of foreign observers does not guarantee a well-conducted election free of rigging. They come to monitor the entire situation. International observers have been visiting our country since 1990. 

 It's important to emphasize that voting in elections is a fundamental human right. Elections should adhere to international standards, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone, a responsibility shared by both the government and the Election Commission.

Foreign observers visiting our country aim to assess our adherence to these international standards. Their observations will influence how the international community perceives the election. 

The EU pre-election observation team arrived three months ago, last July. Since their arrival, they have been reviewing cases, attending courts, and engaging in discussions with various political parties. Overall, they have conducted a thorough assessment and concluded that there are no signs of a fair election in Bangladesh.

Consequently, they have decided not to send a full team to monitor these elections, indicating that the EU will not allocate a budget for monitoring such elections. 

Election monitoring in our country is primarily attended by a significant delegation from the EU, a smaller delegation from the United Nations, a contingent from the Commonwealth, as well as two Asian organizations and representatives from the United States. But there is not much difference between EU policy and US policy.

The reason for the EU's absence in the upcoming elections raises questions. Despite the visa ban, if the US sees no improvements, will they send a team? A pre-election observation team from the US is expected to arrive and will report on the situation. Will they come during the election after that? 

 Brigadier General (Retd.) M Sakhawat Hossain is a former Election Commissioner