Political dialogue vital to enable peaceful, credible polls in Bangladesh – UN official

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

13 May 2013 – A senior United Nations official today stressed the urgent need for more meaningful and constructive political dialogue in Bangladesh to create conducive conditions for the holding of peaceful and credible parliamentary elections that are scheduled for later this year.

“Now is the time for leaders to display political will and arrive at a solution that will create a conducive environment for free, fair, credible, inclusive and non-violent elections to take place,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández-Taranco.

“All the interlocutors that I have met agree that parliamentary elections must be inclusive, free, fair and non-violent if the results are to be credible and acceptable to the people of Bangladesh,” he stated, as he wrapped up a four-day visit to the country.

“All have reaffirmed their commitment to work towards that objective,” he added. “I am especially encouraged that the Prime Minister reiterated her offer to enter into dialogue, which is the crucial starting point.”

In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he also held discussions in Dhaka with the Chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the House Speaker, the Foreign Minister, the Chief Election Commissioner, leaders of major political parties, and representatives of civil society and the media.

“The views that I have heard suggests that there is ground for agreement but bridging the gap will require political will and commitment to resolve the remaining differences.”

Mr. Fernández-Taranco noted that the country is witnessing “a significant increase” in the number of violent incidents. Earlier this month, more than 30 people died and 60 were injured in clashes between police and protesters in the capital, Dhaka.

“I have encouraged all parties to find peaceful ways to resolve their differences and to publicly denounce violence. I have also underscored that maintaining the security of all people is paramount and that human rights and the rule of law should be respected.

“Securing the democracy, maintaining stability and promoting peace and development have to be the priority of everyone in this nation at this critical juncture,” he stressed. “It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work together to create a conducive environment that will allow free, fair, credible, inclusive and non-violent elections to take place.

“I urge the political leaders to work together to find mutually agreeable solutions to this end.”

While hailing the strides made by Bangladesh, Mr. Fernández-Taranco warned that the country’s progress could be jeopardized if it does not address the recent violence, as well as issues such as the need to improve the conditions of workers, as highlighted by the collapse of a garment factory building last month that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.

“These and similar developments are having a toll on the economy. They run the risk of affecting the country’s growth rate, endangering foreign direct investments, and putting Bangladesh’s hard-won social and economic achievements in jeopardy,” he stated.


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