The US voices concern about reported irregularities; happy with less violence
The United States wants Bangladesh to fulfil its commitment to have a “free, fair, participatory, and credible national election.”
"The government of Bangladesh has committed to holding free, fair, participatory, and credible elections that reflect the will of the Bangladeshi people. We look to the government to fulfill this commitment," said US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, in Dhaka on Thursday.
She made the statement in speaking to journalists at the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB), at the Jatiya Press Club. DCAB President Rezaul Karim Lotus, and General Secretary Mahfuzur Rahman Mishu, also spoke at the occasion.
Ambassador Bernicat commended the elections in Khulna and Gazipur city corporations, but expressed concern regarding reports of election "irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation" by political parties and polling agents before the end of voting.
She also expressed concern about the reports of police harassment and the arrest of opposition polling agents, but expressed satisfaction with the low level of violence.
"This is very encouraging," Bernicat said about the wider participation of political parties in the polls.
Recalling the good elections held in Bangladesh in the past, she said, "You have laws to create fair conditions and you have the know-how to hold fair elections."
Bernicat said Bangladesh needs a political environment that promotes tolerance and human rights, and supports the democratic process that allows all its citizens to have a strong, peaceful voice for their own future.
"Freedom of expression, a vibrant media, the right to peaceful assembly – including demonstrations, and free, fair, participatory, and credible elections are vital for the continuous and stable growth of Bangladesh," she said, adding that there is no trade-off between the two.
Responding to a question, Bernicat said in some ways, municipal elections are important indicators of what the general elections may look like.
"The government has pledged to have free, fair, participatory, and credible elections. It matters to us as a fellow democracy that you have good elections," she said.
The US Ambassador, who came to Dhaka three years ago, also said what really matters to them is that the people of Bangladesh believe the elections are fair.
"If you do not believe that your voice was properly heard then you have the opportunity to voice your choice," she said, sharing how a democracy survives and thrives in a country.
Bernicat said Bangladeshis earned that right by fighting and dying for it in 1971 and this should never be taken away.
She said the US will continue to cheer the successes related to previous elections and urge the addressing of irregularities.
Bernicat said they want to see that nobody is worried that their voices will not be heard, and that their choices are reflected in the final results.
The envoy said Bangladesh and the US are built on the same democratic principles and foundations. "This is what makes both of our countries strong."
Bernicat said a strong Bangladesh is crucial to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region and the US' Indo-Pacific strategy aims at building a more stable and prosperous region where sovereignty is upheld.
She also said the US has partnered with Bangladesh to promote peace and stability in South Asia.
Speaking on cooperation in the field of countering militancy and violent extremism, the US Ambassador said her country is committed to working with Bangladesh for the safety and security of the people of the two countries. "This is a global issue, and it requires a coordinated global response."