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UN chief calls on stakeholders to ensure peaceful general elections in Bangladesh

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United Nations, Dec 27: UN chief Antonio Guterres has asked all stakeholders in Bangladesh to ensure that the upcoming general elections are held in an environment free of violence and intimidation, amid reports of arrests and targeted attacks carried out by the ruling party activists.

General elections will be held in Bangladesh on December 30. It will be the 11th election held in the country.

In the run-up to the general elections, UN Secretary General Guterres reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations for a peaceful and democratic Bangladesh.

“All Bangladeshi citizens, including minorities and women, must feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote. Civil society and electoral observers should be fully supported to play their role in the process,” a statement issued Wednesday by the Secretary General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

He “calls on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the elections, so as to enable a peaceful, credible and inclusive poll,” it said.

Last week, Dujarric said the UN was concerned by incidents of electoral violence and arrests of opposition members in Bangladesh just days ahead of the general elections and had called on all stakeholders to ensure the election is inclusive and transparent.

“We are all following these developments very closely and we’re concerned by the reports of incidents of electoral violence and arrests of opposition members and we call on all stakeholders to do their part to make sure that the election is inclusive and transparent,” Dujarric had said Friday.

He said it is very important that the security forces act to ensure free and unhindered campaigning by all candidates.

At least six people have been killed and several hundred injured in election-related violence since December 10 when the campaigning began for the polls. Both opposition and the ruling Awami League blame each other for the attacks.

According to media reports, most attacks were carried out by the ruling party activists who were often backed by the police.

The opposition allege that police have arrested some 10,500 of their activists in a crackdown ahead of elections with an intention to create a “climate of fear”.

The police, however, said no one has been arrested without specific charge and warrant.

Rights group Human Rights Watch has said a repressive political environment in Bangladesh ahead of the national elections was undermining the credibility of the process.

It said widespread electoral violence started as soon as the candidate lists were formally approved, and campaigning began.

Much of the campaign violence has targeted the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and the opposition coalition Jatiya Oikya Front (National United Front).

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