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NDI-Carter Center Statement on Cancellation of Oct. 1, 2001, Observation of Bangladesh Elections

Dhaka… The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and The Carter Center have decided regretfully to call off their joint international observer delegation to Bangladesh's October 1 parliamentary elections, due to circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States. Both institutions extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the victims of that tragedy, including those from Bangladesh and other countries. We also express our gratitude for the many messages of support that Bangladeshis have sent to us.

NDI has worked in Bangladesh since 1991 with citizen groups, political parties and the parliament to help Bangladeshis strengthen their democratic political process. This year NDI and The Carter Center joined together to monitor the 2001 parliamentary elections process. Our activities thus far have included a continuous on-the-ground monitoring presence and a pre-election delegation led by former U. S. President Jimmy Carter. That delegation completed its work with a public statement on August 4. Our ongoing monitoring activities will continue until the election process is complete, and we will issue a report with appropriate recommendations concerning the political process.

Our pre-election delegation was struck by the enthusiasm of the Bangladeshi people for democratic elections and for advancing a democratic, open, and participatory political process beyond elections. That delegation was heartened by the commitments made to it by political leaders to cooperate with the Caretaker Government and the Election Commission and to renounce the use of violence. The commitments of leaders of the main political parties went beyond the electoral process and included a pledge that the new parliament should institutionalize mechanisms to ensure a meaningful role for the opposition - including that the Speaker of Parliament, once chosen, would function in a nonpartisan capacity. The party leaders also pledged not to boycott the next parliament.

NDI and The Carter Center are very concerned about the incidence of pre-election violence to date and express our sincere hope that violence will be curtailed so that Bangladeshis can go to the polls in a peaceful atmosphere on election day. We also look for an election process that provides a strong democratic mandate for whoever forms the next government and for all parties to honor their commitments to develop a meaningful role for the opposition. Added President Carter, "I have confidence in the commitment of the people of Bangladesh to have an open and democratic election."

We again express our gratitude to the people of Bangladesh and especially to the governmental, political, and civic leaders for the warm embrace they have provided to our two institutions. NDI and The Carter Center will continue to work with the Bangladeshi people as they consolidate their representative institutions and democratic political process.


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