US slams Bangladesh elections

The State Department on Monday declared itself “disappointed” with this weekend's elections in Bangladesh that were marred by deadly violence and low turnout.

The statement is the latest sign that the United States is running out of patience with the impoverished southeast Asian country. The Obama administration suspended trade privileges with the country last year after a factory collapse killed 1,129 workers and raised international concerns about the country's safety standards, and a Senate panel voted to condemn political violence there before breaking for recess.

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“The United States is disappointed by the recent Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “With more than half of the seats uncontested and most of the remainder offering only token opposition, the results of the just-concluded elections do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people.”

Harf went on to condemn political violence by both sides.

"Violence is not an acceptable element of the political process; we call on all to stop committing further violence," she said. "Bangladesh’s political leadership – and those who aspire to lead – must do everything in their power to ensure law and order and refrain from supporting and fomenting violence, especially against minority communities, inflammatory rhetoric, and intimidation."

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The elections reportedly drew a paltry 22 percent of eligible voters to the polls after the main opposition party boycotted them amid accusations that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League was manipulating the results. Political clashes left at least 19 people dead, The New York Times reports. The Awami League declared victory on Monday.

Here's the full statement: 

The United States is disappointed by the recent Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. With more than half of the seats uncontested and most of the remainder offering only token opposition, the results of the just-concluded elections do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people.
While it remains to be seen what form the new government will take, United States commitment to supporting the people of Bangladesh remains undiminished. To that end, we encourage the Government of Bangladesh and opposition parties to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible, reflecting the will of the Bangladeshi people.

We condemn in the strongest terms the violence from all quarters that continues to mark the prevailing political impasse. Violence is not an acceptable element of the political process; we call on all to stop committing further violence. Bangladesh’s political leadership – and those who aspire to lead – must do everything in their power to ensure law and order and refrain from supporting and fomenting violence, especially against minority communities, inflammatory rhetoric, and intimidation.

In the coming days, as Bangladesh seeks a way forward that is in keeping with its strong democratic traditions, we call upon the Government of Bangladesh to provide political space to all citizens to freely express their political views. We also call strongly on the opposition to use such space peacefully and responsibly, and for all sides to eschew violence, which is not part of democratic practice and must stop immediately.

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