South Asia

US Says Will Restrict Visas of Those Seen to Be 'Undermining' Bangladesh Elections

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that these restrictions should not be seen as the US making allegations against the Bangladesh government.

New Delhi: The United States said on Wednesday (May 24) that it will restrict visas of those who are seen to be interfering in or undermining the upcoming Bangladesh elections.

“Today, I announced a new visa policy to promote free and fair elections. Under this policy, we can impose visa restrictions on individuals and their immediate family members if they are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, according to AFP, said that these restrictions should not be seen as the US making allegations against the Bangladesh government.

General elections are supposed to be held in Bangladesh in January 2024. Opposition parties in the country have been raising questions around the Sheikh Hasina government’s handling of elections, and demanding that power be handed over to a caretaker government in the meantime to ensure free and fair elections.

In a longer statement, Blinken said, “Actions that undermine the democratic election process include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views.”

“The holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone—voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media.  I am announcing this policy to lend our support to all those seeking to advance democracy in Bangladesh,” he continued.

Bangladeshi state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam responded to this on Wednesday by saying that the new US visa policy does not bother the Bangladeshi government, since authorities are “committed” to holding free elections, Prothom Alo reported.

“It’s not a sanction. BNP [the opposition Bangladesh National Party] should be worried as violence before or during election is another criterion that will trigger visa restriction,” he said.