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EU wants inclusive polls

Voices of all must be heard

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An early election in Bangladesh will be pointless if there is no consensus among all political parties, said the head of the visiting European Parliament (EP) delegation here on Monday.
"…dialogue…everything should be on the table including the possibility of an early election if all legitimate political parties are willing to participate (in it)," Jean Lambert told a select group of journalists at a city hotel just before starting their two-day mission here. She said, from their point of view it would be pointless to go for an early election if this turns into an 'action replay of the last one'.
"Obviously there's a need for political dialogue…we need to be in a situation where the voices of all the people of Bangladesh can be heard in politics," said Lambert, also the chairperson of the Delegation for Relations with South Asia.
She, however, said they will be hearing from the government, which has a five-year term, to know their views apart from BNP on the issue of political dialogue.
Responding to a question, Lambert said the new parliament that comes in May next will keep in touch to see what is happening here.
Responding to another query, she said they 'still stand by the resolution' adopted by the European Parliament soon after the much-talked-about January 5 elections that requested the European Union (EU) to assist a process seeking 'a compromise which would give the Bangladeshi people a chance to express their democratic choice in a representative way.
Sought her comment on the rise of reported extrajudicial killings, Lambert said, "You're right…this is something which is deeply disturbing."
She also said, the issue about extrajudicial killings is certainly something what they want to talk about during their stay in Dhaka.
Lambert laid emphasis on successful completion of the investigation into extrajudicial killings saying, "…setting up an investigation is one thing but having a successful conclusion to it (investigation) is another."
Responding to a question on the ongoing Upazila polls, she said this would be one of the issues to be discussed with the Election Commission and they are willing to know what action will be taken by the EC (regarding irregularities in the polls).
In response to query on BNP's severing ties with Jamaat, Lambert said they will be asking (BNP chief Khaleda Zia) what their strategy is; what she feels and what the advantages and disadvantages are.
The European Parliament, in its resolution after the January 5 elections, urged BNP to 'unequivocally' distance itself from Jamaat-e-Islami and Hafezat-e-Islam in the interest of Bangladesh's future.
Head of delegation of European Union (EU) to Bangladesh Ambassador William Hanna, other members of the cross-party EP delegation - John Attard-Montalto (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), Salvador Sedo i Alabart (European People's Party), and Niccolò Rinaldi (Alliance of Democrats and Liberals) were also present.
Earlier, the delegation held a breakfast meeting with the ambassadors of eight European countries at the same hotel.
Concerned that the political parties did not manage to agree on an inclusive mechanism for the January 2014 elections, the EP delegation will discuss the post-election scenario as well as social and economic issues with key Bangladeshi decision-makers and civil society representatives.
The EP delegation will hold a series of meetings with relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the measures adopted to improve factory safety and workers' rights, notably the EU-Bangladesh Global Sustainability Compact before meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today (Tuesday).
The delegation arrived here on Sunday night to discuss post-election scenario in Bangladesh and see the progress made in the readymade garment industry after the Rana Plaza building collapse, just ahead of the first anniversary of the catastrophic building collapse, which cost over a thousand lives of garment workers.
During the two-day visit the EP delegation will also meet Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and representatives of civil society.

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