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2023 brings laurels for Bangladesh despite concern over fair polls

Staff Reporter:

With “successes” in its basket in the outgoing year 2023, Bangladesh looks forward to a free and fair election next month and will explore ways to deal with whatever challenges it might face in the post-election period, officials said this week.

The government sees Bangladesh’s multiple wins in a number of global forums in the outgoing year as success stories but remains prepared to face any situation if there is any problem during the election that will be watched closely by the international community.

“Why should we think of something negative at the beginning? There is a commitment from the highest level to hold a free and fair election and the Election Commission is working hard. We are all working. We are expecting that there will be a good election,” said Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen.

If there is a problem during the polls, he said, they will deal with it at that time. “At this moment, we are not thinking that polls will not be free and fair. Why should we worry in advance?”

Masud Momen said the election will be observed by a big team from the Commonwealth, there are election expert teams from the European Union and NDI-IRI. “We hope people will cast their votes in a festive environment.”

“Despite all these in place, if the issue of further sanctions comes, we have to face that. I do not see any reason to become restless and get panicked at this moment, he said.

The foreign secretary said there will be some problems always and they will have to move on.

“There is really nothing to worry so much about what a country thinks or does if we ourselves remain right, if we can make the election fair, if the voters cast their vote…. We don’t want conflict in the election. Yet in past experience we have seen conflict locally. There will be efforts to reduce it,” he said.

Masud said they are concentrating on how they can help the Election Commission to hold free and fair polls. “We are committed to holding a free and fair election. That’s our focus. If there is any problem, we will face that.”

He said they want peace and stability the way the foreign friends want. “We want to follow a peaceful process. Bangladesh is always for peace.”

Responding to a question, the foreign secretary said Bangladesh is not holding elections to satisfy any foreigner but for its constitutional obligation, government’s continuity and people will vote if they want to vote.

He said what a particular country is thinking of or whether any particular country recognises the polls or not are irrelevant.

Success Stories-2023

The foreign secretary mentioned Saima Wazed’s win as Regional Director of WHO South East Asia Regional Organization as one of the many success stories.

The newly elected regional director will take office on February 1, 2024 for a five-year term.

The nomination will be submitted for appointment by the 154th session of the WHO Executive Board, which takes place from January 22 to 27, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The foreign secretary also mentioned Bangladesh’s win in the 175-member International Maritime Organization (IMO) council election 2023 held in London at the IMO headquarters in category C, securing 128 votes as a success story.

This is the first time Bangladesh has won the election in the highly competitive category C of the IMO.

The government says Bangladesh’s election to the International Maritime Organisation’s elite 40-member council is a testimony of the confidence and trust that the IMO member states and the international maritime community place on Bangladesh’s leadership as a maritime nation and action led by the prudent leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Earlier, Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem was elected by consensus vice president of the 33rd assembly of the IMO during which the election took place.

IMO is the only UN specialised body that regulates global shipping standards that affects ship operating flag states, seafarers, and maritime safety, security and marine pollution.

“These were very competitive elections,” said Masud Momen.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Sheikh Mohammed Belal was re-elected Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).

He was re-elected with 68.01 percent votes at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Governing Council. Belal will serve a four-year term in office.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Ambassador Belal will have the opportunity to work more for the disadvantaged of the world as he has been elected managing director of an important financial institution for the second term.

Under his leadership, he said, the Common Fund for Commodities will be able to play a more effective role in achieving sustainable development goals.

In November, Bangladesh was elected to the UNESCO Executive Board at a keenly contested election held during the 42nd General Conference in Paris.

This brings Bangladesh back to the board after two years for the term 2023-27.

This is the third contested election Bangladesh won at UNESCO in last one and a half years, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Responding to a question of big powers rivalry, the foreign secretary said Bangladesh is trying its best how to do this balancing act maintaining contact and communication with all the countries.

“We are not making anyone hostile. We are responding timely and responding to concerns, if any. Many are saying that they want to learn from us. They are happy with how Bangladesh is dealing with all these competing demands and interests,” he said, adding that there is no magic formula.

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