Bangladesh's new government should reach out to opposition – UN official

2 January 2009

A senior United Nations electoral official today urged Bangladesh's newly elected Government to extend a hand of friendship to the opposition, saying there should not be “a feeling of winners and losers.”

The head of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's High-Level Panel to assess and report on the parliamentary elections, Francesc Vendrell, told a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, that he felt complaints by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) might not much change the outcome of the election, won by Sheikh Hasina's Grand Alliance, even if many of them turned out to be valid.

“I have to say I have been encouraged by the public statement and also from the private conversation with Sheikh Hasina,” he said. “I think I have found that she has the right kind of spirit in reaching out to the opposition. I think that she has stressed that there is a role for the opposition in parliament.”

The new government should now make the strengthening of democratic institutions a priority and ensure the independence of bodies that have been created over the past two years, such as the anti-corruption commission, he added.

He paid tribute to the professionalism of the Election Commission, noting that both domestic and international observers attested to the “credibility and fairness” with which it managed the process.

The three-member Panel – which also includes Bhojraj Pokharel, Nepal's Chief Election Commissioner, and Aracelly Santana, the former deputy director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division – will report back to Mr. Ban next week on the conduct of the elections.


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