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EU plans to send over 150 observers
Call for creating 'right condition' for all parties' participation in next polls

          European Union (EU) would send over 150 observers for monitoring a most crucial poll in the country and suggested creating "right condition" for all parties' participation in the upcoming elections, reports UNB.
This was disclosed Wednesday by European Union (EU) Head of Delegation in Bangladesh Ambassador Stephan Frowein during an exclusive interview with the news agency.
The ambassador cautioned that boycott of polls this time around would be perilous for Bangladesh and called for finding a quick solution to differences over electoral reforms through dialogue.
"Boycott is very dangerous - it may lead to other problems…If you don't participate, you take a risk of a situation that will be difficult to control," he said.
Frowein called for quickening the process of proposed government-opposition dialogue to reach consensus on electoral reforms for free, fair and transparent elections where people could freely cast vote for a new government or for the incumbent.
The European diplomat observed that the dialogue initiative "moves very slowly" while "time is running out" fast for the politicians to set the house in order before entering into the run-up to the polls.
Political parties have only a few months in hand to resolve the problems before the caretaker government takes charge in October, he said, making the call for all to wake up to the occasion.
He said the EU would double the number of election observers this time around compared to past elections in Bangladesh on both long-and short-term basis. In the 2001 elections, there were 90 observers sent from the EU.
The ambassador further said the first EU exploratory mission would arrive in Dhaka as early as June to evaluate the pre-election situation, and on the basis of their pre-appraisal report, the observers would be deployed in different phases, including during the run-up to the polls and on the election day.
Led by a member of EU Parliament, the election-observer team will be composed of experts from EU member-states and research institutions.
Asked why the EU and other development partners are paying so much attention this time to Bangladesh election, and calling it critical, Frowein said election in 2007 would be quite different from the 1996 and 2001 elections because of a radically changed global scenario after 9/11.
Secondly, he said, there are so many arms available around the continent. If somebody wants to be violent, he has more chances to be violent than anytime before.
"So, I would say the danger of totally getting into some uncontrollable situation is much higher this time than ever before," he added.
Frowein said, "… It is so important that the election has to be free, fair and transparent. If not, there is a very great danger of having violent reactions, of having things happening, which we cannot control - and nobody can control. And so it is different from other elections and that is why it is so important."
Asked if he apprehends any army intervention in case political parties failed to resolve their differences, he dismissed the notion, and explained why. Bangladesh's military is very professional, disciplined and an internationally recognised force playing enormous role in UN's Blue Helmet area.
"My personal impression is that this international reputation of your army is a guarantee for Bangladesh that they will not interfere in political field," he said.
Asked about the opposition's electoral reform proposals, the envoy said the caretaker government is part of the Constitution, but noted new reforms everywhere in the world are welcome to improve the existing system. But the pivotal point is consensus.
Frowein called for finding a solution through dialogue, saying, "Solution is part of compromise. Try to find a solution you can live with. Don't go for an ideal solution, rather go for a reasonable, pragmatic and objective solution."
During an hour-long interview, the ambassador also spoke on EC's priority agenda in Bangladesh: Combating corruption, improving human rights as well as EU-Bangladesh trade and economic relations.
Asked about EU Troika's apprehension that violence against minority communities may intensify in the pre-election periods, he did not give any straight reply. "We are aware of the problem of the minority people," he said.
However, he mentioned human rights condition of the Ahmadiyyas, Rohingyas and Biharis and said they are in a situation that is not acceptable in international standards.
On corruption, Frowein said the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), as it now exists, is not very efficient. It should be independent and it needs a little dynamism, as corruption will have to be dealt with very effectively to increase Bangladesh's economic growth - from 6.0 per cent to 8.0-9.0 per cent - to fight against poverty.
"Corruption is cancer in any country as it has destructive effect on the economy," he noted.


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