Diplomatic Correspondent: The Bangladesh government appreciates that the international community, including the US, firmly stands by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s sustained commitment to ensure free and fair elections, said the Foreign Ministry yesterday in a statement responding to the new US visa policy.
“Bangladesh would like to view this announcement in the broader context of its government’s unequivocal commitment to holding free and fair elections at all levels for upholding the country’s democratic process,” said the Foreign Ministry.
On Wednesday, the United States announced a new visa policy to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.
“Under this policy, the United States will be able to restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh,” US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said in a statement while announcing the new visa policy.
In the statement, Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said, the government apparatus will take necessary measures to prevent and address any unlawful practices or interference by any individual, group or entity to compromise the smooth and participatory conduct of the elections.
“The government expects that the local undemocratic forces that resort to violence, arson and destruction would remain cautious and refrain from their misguided efforts to jeopardize the electoral process as mandated by the Constitution,” said the statement. It said the electoral process will remain under strict vigilance, including by international observers as accredited by the Election Commission.
“It is entirely up to the people of Bangladesh to sustain the hard-earned democratic process, political stability and development gains in the country,” said the Foreign Ministry.
Under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, it said, Bangladesh remains a democratic and politically stable nation with experience of holding a series of elections at national and local levels.
“The people of Bangladesh are very much conscious of their democratic and voting rights. There is no precedent for any government to continue in office having usurped people’s mandate through vote rigging,” read the statement.
It further said the people’s right to franchise is considered a state sanctity by the Awami League government that has a political legacy of unrelenting struggles and sacrifice for securing that right.
Since the general elections in 2008, the Foreign Ministry said, it is evident that the people of the country experienced unprecedented socio-economic development and empowerment due to continued political stability under the Awami League government.
This resulted in the reduction of headcount poverty from 41.5% in 2006 to 18.7% in 2022, and of extreme poverty from 25.1% to 5.6% during the same period, it added.
Now an international role model for development, Bangladesh has become eligible for graduation from the UN Least Developed Country (LDC) status by 2026.
These have been achieved due to the Awami League government being elected to office for three consecutive terms over the last fourteen years, said the Foreign Ministry.
The statement mentioned that the government attaches importance to freedom of assembly and association for all peaceful and legitimate democratic processes, it said, adding that the electoral reform process in Bangladesh continues in a consultative manner involving all concerned stakeholders.
As part of the process, photo-based voter ID cards were issued in response to the 10.23 million fraudulent voters enlisted by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government. The use of transparent ballot boxes has also been made the norm to establish confidence among the electorate as well as the polling officials and agents.
The National Election Commission continues to be equipped with the wherewithal to carry out its functions in full independence, credibility and efficiency.
The present government took the initiative for the first time to get the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners Appointment Act, 2022 enacted by the National Parliament. Pursuant to this law, a new Election Commission has been constituted.
As mandated by the Bangladesh Constitution and Representation of the People Order, 1972, the entire executive machinery will remain at the Election Commission’s disposal to assist in the discharge of its responsibilities in a way as it may direct.
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