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If the current electoral process fails in Bangladesh it will be a major setback European Union officials say. That would be a major setback for democracy in Bangladesh and damaging to the international credibility of the country, the EU said in Dhaka on Saturday.“The European Union is deeply concerned and disappointed by recent developments relating to the parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, in particular the decision by major parties to withdraw from participating on Jan. 22,” the EU says in a statement, issued by the German Embassy in the capital, Dhaka as the EU Presidency in Bangladesh.

The EU says it is also concerned over the fact that no success has been achieved yet with efforts at coming up with electoral conditions that satisfy all parties, as well as the public.

“This threatens to deny the people of Bangladesh the opportunity to fully enjoy their democratic right to vote. It further raises the prospect of protracted instability costing the country in human, developmental and economic terms.”

The EU will provide the largest international observer presence at these crucial elections. This will consist of a Core Team of ten election experts to be deployed in the middle of December to co-ordinate the assessment of the entire election process, 40 Long Term Observers (LTOs) to be deployed at the end December to assess the campaign period and pre-election preparations around the country and one hundred Short Term Observers (STOs) to observe voting, counting and the tabulation of results. They will be joined by locally recruited STOs from diplomatic representatives of EU Member States resident in the country around the election day. It is planned that the EU EOM will remain in the country for up to four weeks after election day to observe the post-election period. However, the deployment of the EU EOM will be kept under careful review, taking into account the progress made towards a satisfactory electoral process.

EU Election Observation Missions are an important instrument for building confidence in the democratic processes of a country and are deployed in line with the EU’s commitment to promote democracy, human rights and the respect for the rule of law. The EU has made available some €3 million, from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), for this mission.

The European Commission is one of Bangladesh’s most important partners and is providing funds to assist the country in implementing its development policy reform agenda. Assistance is being provided to a number of important sectors, including education, health, trade-related support, food security, rural development, good governance and human rights. The Commission has also channelled €1.6 million for projects to enhance civic awareness ahead of the elections, in particular to vulnerable groups.

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