The Election Exploratory Mission (ExM) sent to Bangladesh by the European Union (EU) between 6-12 July, 2023, had determined that EU election observers for the upcoming parliamentary elections "would not serve for its purpose this time."
In reply to a query from The Business Standard, Nabila Massrali, the EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said, "The Mission [ExM], including 4 external experts, met with a wide range of election stakeholders including the MFA, election management bodies, the judiciary, representatives of political parties, the media and civil society as well as security forces and the international community and concluded that an EU Election Observation Mission [EOM] would not serve for its purpose this time."
The spokesperson further explained that the mission's mandate was "to collect factual information and assess, from an independent and technical point of view, whether the deployment of an EU Election Observation Mission [EOM] to the upcoming parliamentary elections would be feasible, useful and advisable in line with the international standards that Bangladesh has signed up to."
The statement added that the European External Action Service took the independent report into consideration and was currently exploring other more suitable options to accompany the electoral process, "should these be welcomed by the government and the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC)".
Earlier on Thursday (21 September), Election Commission Secretary Md Jahangir Alam said the EU decided not to send observers during Bangladesh's upcoming national elections due to "budgetary constraints".
Quoting an email sent by the EU to the Election Commission, EC Secretary Jahangir said the EU thanked the commission for the fruitful meetings of the EU delegation that visited Bangladesh in July and hoped to keep in regular communication with the commission.
According to an EC official, the email also said "at the present time, it is not sufficiently clear whether the necessary conditions will be met at the point in time when the elections take place".
"The EU is currently exploring other options to accompany the electoral process," the email further said.
Reacting to the EU's decision, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahrier Alam on the same day said the decision not to send a full-fledged polls-time observation team would have no impact on Bangladesh's next parliamentary election slated for January.
The EU also did not send any observers in the last two national elections in 2014 and 2018; it last sent observers during the 2008 elections.
A week ago, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) called on the government to restore a safe and enabling environment for NGOs, human rights defenders, activists and religious minorities while expressing deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh.