Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL Biweekly Election Update (30 October – 12 November 2023)

In recent events in Bangladesh, the political landscape has been marked by escalating tensions and crackdowns between the ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition parties, primarily the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The AL has pledged to resist what it perceives as 'anarchy' instigated by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.1 Meanwhile, the Election Commission continued its preparations for the upcoming election amidst the ongoing political violence against the backdrop of nationwide blockades called by BNP and its allies.2 The schedule for the upcoming election had also been said to be announced in the first half of November 2023, while the election itself is likely to take place between 6 and 9 January 2024.3

The international community has shown increasing concern, with foreign missions issuing joint statements and representatives giving statements, urging restraint and a conducive environment for a free, fair, and participatory election.4 The US condemned political violence, pledging support for democracy, while the UN and Amnesty International expressed worries about human rights violations and Human Rights Watch urged the release of political prisoners.5 Dialogue efforts between the political parties also faced obstacles with the AL rejecting talks with the BNP.6

As arrests of major and local opposition leaders and activists mounted, reaching around 10,000 arrests by the end of this biweekly reporting period, the political scenario saw diplomatic engagements, including US Ambassador Peter Haas' meeting with the Election Commission and statements from international actors like the EU and Canadian Parliament Members.7 The domestic situation remained tense, marked by arrests, disappearances, and protests, while the Election Commission attempted to engage political parties for discussions on election preparations, despite challenges posed by the absence of key opposition figures.8

Despite international calls for dialogue and concerns over human rights, the domestic political scene in Bangladesh continues to be marked by arrests, protests, and uncertainty regarding the upcoming election. The Chief Election Commissioner emphasized the commitment to holding the election on time, even as the opposition called for blockades.9 Overall, the summary underscores the complexity and gargantuan challenges faced in navigating the path to a free and fair election in Bangladesh.

READ THE FULL BRIEFER HERE: "Bangladesh in Focus: An ANFREL Biweekly Election Update (30 October - 12 November 2023)"


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