‘Election Fair’ In Bangladesh Amid The Global ‘Tug-Of-War’ – OpEd


The 12th National Assembly elections will probably be held in the first week of January 2024. But for the last one and a half to two years, we have been hearing many things from political parties and government officials about this election. Foreigners are also repeatedly arguing for the upcoming elections to be held fair and participatory. Especially, the Western world seems to be more concerned with the Bangladesh election this time than it has been in the past. It is in everyone’s interest that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, and participatory.

A six-member EU’s Election Exploratory Mission is on a two-week-long visit from July 9-23 to survey the atmosphere ahead of the next national election. On the other hand, Uzra Zia, Undersecretary for Civil Security, Human Rights and Democracy of the US Department of State, has already landed in Dhaka along with Donald Lu. EU Special Representative on Human Rights Eamon Gilmore will also visit Bangladesh at the end of the month.

Issues such as upcoming national elections, human rights, democracy, and labor rights will be important in the discussions with Bangladesh during these visits. The United States has adopted a visa policy to ensure free and fair elections in Bangladesh. Apart from this, 12 Congressmen of the United States and 6 members of Parliament of the European Union recently joined the Bangladesh issue, urging them to take steps to make the upcoming elections fair and neutral in Bangladesh. Six congressmen wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the same issue on June 8.

On the other hand, China and Russia have made statements in favor of Bangladesh against Western activities of questioning democracy and human rights. Western opponents are claiming that the activities of the United States and Europe on Bangladesh are interference in internal affairs and neo-colonialism.

All but two of the past elections have seen domestic complaints about the acceptability of the elections before and after the elections, but foreigners have not been heard to talk much about the elections held then. This time, the scope of interest of foreigners in Bangladesh elections seems to have increased more than before. Although small, Bangladesh has now attracted the special attention of many countries in terms of geopolitics. Because world politics is changing very fast now. In that respect, we have become much more important to many. 

World politics now seems to have turned from complex to crooked. To meet that challenge, we have to overcome the huge fleet of internal obstacles, when the sword of the complicated and crooked purpose of foreigners is on our head, we have to fall into more trouble.

Bangladesh’s economic and trade relations with our neighboring countries India and China have grown significantly in the last few years. Same situation with Japan. Our economic and commercial relations with the United States are growing rapidly. Bangladesh has been able to show great economic potential in the last decade and a half. Because of that, in the new context of world politics, various interests are being considered due to the geopolitical position of these big states regarding Bangladesh. That is why the Western world may seem to be paying more attention to their economic and political interests in Bangladesh than before.

The US delegation reiterated the Biden administration’s hopes of seeing free and fair elections in Bangladesh. Apart from this, the United States seeks to know the attitude of the political parties and authorities given the progress of the political environment of Bangladesh and the upcoming elections after the announcement of the visa policy of the United States. Simultaneously, several European and United Nations delegations are also likely to come to Dhaka. It seems that foreigners are going to have a fair in Dhaka about the upcoming elections in Bangladesh. These representatives will come to the fair and make a comparative analysis of who will protect their interests in Bangladesh geopolitically. The question is whether they will find someone like the highest bidder in Bangladesh or not.

From the perspective of the situation, it seems that this time the United States and the European countries will choose to ensure a “level-playing field” in the front and pressure to lean towards the West at the backend. It looks like we’re going to be the guinea pigs of that auction. Fortunately, China and Russia are not sending their representatives in that way. They stick to their policy of non-interference and the Chinese media criticized the United States and European countries regarding the Western meddling. 

As China now competes economically with the United States, Chinese policies and strategies seem to be changing. Especially with IPS and Quad, there is a tug-of-war going on around the world. There is pressure from the Western world to include Bangladesh in these organizations. China is more concerned about that. 

Bangladesh does not have any policy position to engage the global world for geopolitical interests. Many countries are standing in the way of allowing Bangladesh to continue with friendly relations with all countries. At the moment, Bangladesh has no desire to tie up with any superpower or take a position in the military ring, despite repeatedly saying that there is no relief in any alliance, the pressure is increasing on us. Some countries have chosen the next election to intensify that pressure. Their talk, behavior and the sight of frequent delegations seem to be frequenting Dhaka to win over anyone who will protect their interests in the next election. 

Participatory election and democracy help to maintain the rule of law. Before the election, everyone should follow the election laws and regulations in order to implement the promise of keeping the election free from influence and interference. Election interference, the spread of influence, black money, misuse of religion, spreading seeds of communalism, etc. must be strictly monitored. The experience of the new Election Commission is not to be underestimated. If the government and political parties fulfill their promises of fair, participatory elections and the people of the country are in a position to hold the next election free of scandals, no strategy of foreign interests will work.

Asif Anwar

Asif Anwar is a freelance writer and columnist. He graduated in Political Science from Dhaka University. His research interests are Diplomacy and negotiations, South Asian Politics, and Politics and Development.

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