The U.S. expressed disappointment with Bangladesh’s political leaders and joined the European Union in declining to send observers for next month’s election amid growing violence in Asia’s fifth-most populous country. With more than half of the seats in the parliamentary election on Jan. 5 uncontested, Bangladesh’s main political parties should redouble efforts to find a peaceful way to settle their disputes, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement yesterday. The move by the U.S. follows a decision by the European Union last week to refrain from sending observers until conditions allow for a transparent, inclusive and credible election. “The people of Bangladesh deserve the opportunity to elect their national representatives in a climate free of violence and intimidation,” Psaki said. “The nation’s political leadership -– and those who aspire to lead -– must ensure law and order.”
Escalating violence in Bangladesh threatens to derail a democracy marred by frequent military interventions and harm an economy that has grown by about 6 percent a year on average since 2008. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s refusal to stand aside for a caretaker administration to oversee Jan. 5 elections has added to tensions with opponents already inflamed over recent convictions in a war crimes tribunal.
More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more injured over the last two months in violence tied to the elections and the war crimes tribunal, Human Rights Watch said in a report last week. Security forces stepped up operations against the opposition earlier this month, the New York-based advocacy group said.