The US voices concern about reported irregularities; happy with less violence

US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat has linked free, fair and credible elections in Bangladesh with the stability of the Indo-Pacific region for which the new American administration has adopted a strategy.

“The US and Bangladesh are built on the same democratic principles and foundations. This is what makes both of our countries strong. And a strong Bangladesh is crucial for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” Bernicat said while meeting diplomatic correspondents in Dhaka on Thursday.

Before saying that, she highlighted Bangladesh’s democratic process and elections in Khulna and Gazipur, and indicated that stability comes through holding free, fair and credible elections.

“While we commend the Khulna and Gazipur city corporation elections, the US remains concerned by reports of irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of political players and polling agents both before and on the day of the vote,” she said.

“We are also concerned by reports of police harassment and arrests of opposition polling agents and politicians in the weeks leading up to the elections.”

“The government of Bangladesh has committed to hold free, fair, participatory and credible elections that reflect the will of Bangladeshi people.”

“We look to the government to fulfill this commitment.”The Trump administration has been highlighted the new Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US administration since the beginning.

To them, it means a region stretching from the US West Coast through the Bay of Bengal. This region represents more than half the global population and more than half of the global economy.

The US is one of the leading trading partners for the region and is also a major donor and investor, both through its private sector companies and through its role as the largest or co-largest individual shareholder in both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

From a security standpoint, the Indo-Pacific is the region in which the US has its longest maritime border, several long-standing treaty allies, as well as being home to its Pacific fleet, one of the most advanced naval units in the world that has conducted countless joint exercises with like-minded countries and training for nearly every military in the region, including Bangladesh.

Ambassador Bernicat was speaking at DCAB talk, the flagship event of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh.

Her speech came two days after the Gazipur election in which the ruling Awami League candidate defeated his rival by a big margin amid allegations of irregularities.

The US administration has been expressing its concern about Bangladesh’s elections since Jan 5, 2014 when the last parliamentary election was held amid a boycott by the opposition BNP. That resulted in the ruling Awami League winning uncontested in 154 seats. The US did not find that election credible.

Bernicat highlighted Bangladesh’s development and economic progress, but said there is still much to be done.”Bangladesh needs a democratic environment that fosters tolerance, promotes human rights and supports a democratic process that allows all citizens to have a strong, peaceful voice in their own future.”

“Freedom of expression, vibrant media and the right to peaceful assembly, including demonstrations, and free, fair, participatory and credible elections are vital for continuous and stable growth for Bangladesh,” she said.”There’s no trade-off between the two.”

The US’s task is to help Bangladesh sustain its momentum and its impressive development trajectory, Bernicat said.She also said the US has partnered with Bangladesh to promote peace and stability in the region.

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