Bruce Golding to head Commonwealth team to observe Bangladesh elections
LONDON (CMC) – Former Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, will head a 10-member Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) to observe Bangladesh’s general elections on January 7 next year.
“It is my honour and privilege to have been asked to lead this team and to once again, serve the Commonwealth. I am pleased to be collaborating with this expert team which, as is customary, includes experts from diverse backgrounds, countries and professions. In conducting our duties in Bangladesh, we pledge to remain objective, transparent and independent,” Golding said.
The 12th parliamentary election will be held on January 7 in 300 seats, Chief Election Commissioner Habibul Awal said.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), whose top leaders are either jailed or in exile, has already said it will boycott the polls if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not resign and transfer power to a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee the general election.
Hasina has led Bangladesh for the past 15 years and her main rival and two-time premier, BNP leader, Khaleda Zia, is effectively under house arrest for what her party calls trumped-up corruption charges.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in the Muslim-majority country, and the Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB) party also said they would also boycott the polls.
The London-based Commonwealth Secretariat said that Golding is one of two Caribbean Community (Caricom) nationals who will be observing the polls. The other is Terry Dale Ince, gender and human rights advocate, organisational development consultant and founder of CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago.
“The Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering peaceful, fair and credible elections is unwavering. Impartial and independent elections observers provide valuable recommendations to improve and strengthen the elections and democratic processes,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
“The team’s deployment demonstrates the Commonwealth’s continued commitment to supporting electoral democracy in our 56 member countries and safeguarding the rights of the people of Bangladesh as they take part in these pivotal elections,” she added.
The Secretariat said that the expert team will consider all aspects of the election process and provide their observations on whether the elections are conducted in line with the democratic standards to which Bangladesh has committed itself. The CET will also be supported by staff members from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The other members of the team are drawn from Cameroon, India, Kenya, Maldives, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
“Throughout their time in Bangladesh, the CET will meet various stakeholders, including political parties, police, civil society groups, citizen observer and monitor groups, as well as representatives from the media,” the Secretariat said.
It said that from January 6, the team will also deploy in small groups around the country to observe electoral preparations in their respective areas and on election day will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting and results management processes.