The European Union will not send a full-fledged election observeration mission during the upcoming national polls as it considers the environment in Bangladesh is not conducive to observe elections.
The EU sent a letter to the Election Commission yesterday, informing of the assessment of the EU exploratory mission that visited Bangladesh in January and July this year.
During the July visit, the six-member EU exploratory mission held meetings with a range of stakeholders including the EC, officials of the ministries of home, law, information, foreign affairs, and Chattogram Hill Tracts affairs, law enforcers, civil society groups, and journalists.
"A letter regarding this has been sent to the Election Commission and a copy to the foreign ministry," a foreign ministry official told today.
"They say that environment is not conducive, but it is not clear to us how they assessed the environment," the official said.
The EU, however, indicated that it would send a small group of experts during the upcoming elections slated for January next year.
The development comes when the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP are at odds over the polls-time administration. Awami League says the election will be held under the current government as per the constitution, while the opposition is demanding the installation of a caretaker government, saying the elections under the current administration will not be free and fair.
The opposition also says the last two elections under the Awami League government were marred by irregularities.
The US has been repeatedly stressing on free and fair elections and on May 24 this year announced visa restrictions on those involved in vote rigging or intimidation.
In 2021, the US imposed sanctions against Rab and seven of its current and former officials for alleged human rights violations. The US also did not invite Bangladesh to the Democracy Summit in 2021 and 2023.
"It is quite shocking that the EU has decided not to send election observation team. This could work as a motivation for other foreign election observation teams not to come to Bangladesh," a diplomatic source said.
The EU also did not send an election observation team in the 2018 national elections.
On September 14, the European Parliament also adopted a resolution expressing deep concerns over the "deteriorating human rights situation" in Bangladesh.
The resolution specifically deplored the prison sentence against two Odhikar leaders - Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan - handed down on 14 September, and urged the Bangladesh government to immediately and unconditionally quash the ruling, to drop all charges against Odhikar's representatives and reinstate the rights body's registration, and to ensure that civil society organisations can access approved foreign grants.
M Humayun Kabir, president of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), earlier told that the EU did not send observers for 2018 polls and the international community was highly critical of the last two elections. Therefore, presence of international observers during the upcoming elections is very important.
He said international acceptability of the election is extremely important for the country, given the economic and diplomatic challenges in the post-LDC Bangladesh, especially in the changing global geopolitical environment following the Russia-Ukraine war.