Washington, DC – IRI today announced the members of its election observation delegation for Bangladesh’s December 29, 2008 elections.  Delegates will travel to Bangladesh to monitor voting and ballot counting throughout the country. F ollowing the voting, IRI will issue a statement on the findings of the delegation.

IRI’s delegation will be led by Constance Berry Newman, IRI board member and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.  Other delegates are:

IRI staff will also serve as observers and assist in the mission. IRI staff will be led by Judy Van Rest, Executive Vice President; Cynthia Bunton, Regional Director for Asia programs; and Jeffrey Vanness, Country Director for Bangladesh.

Prior to Election Day, IRI’s short-term observers will be briefed by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, elections officials, international and Bangladeshi nongovernmental organizations, political parties, and representatives of the media.  They will also be briefed on the rights and responsibilities of international observers and Bangladesh election law.  Delegates will then be deployed throughout the country where they will monitor polling stations and identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in Bangladesh’s election system.

In addition to the Election Day observers, IRI has also deployed a 26-member international long-term election observation mission to monitor the political environment in Bangladesh in the weeks leading up to and just after the parliamentary elections.  The IRI-sponsored observation mission has met with leaders and officials from political parties and domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, as well as with government officials, election administrators and Bangladeshi citizens.

IRI also conducted two pre-election assessments in Bangladesh from July 31-August 8, 2008, and October 13-21, 2008.  The teams evaluated the state of preparations for the parliamentary elections and found that the Bangladesh Election Commission would be ready to hold elections on December 29, despite some concerns about the lack of sufficient human resources, particularly in regard to election officers.

IRI is also facilitating a delegation of short-term observers fielded under the auspices of the Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership, a new partnership that provides a venue for democratic nations in Asia to work together to support democratic values, strengthen democratic institutions and assist those who are working to build and sustain free societies across the Asia-Pacific region.

Finally, IRI is supporting the National Election Observer Council (JANIPOP), a domestic election observation organization.  IRI has worked with JANIPOP to train and field observers to monitor every stage of the election process, detecting electoral abuses before, during, and after elections, acting as a deterrent against abuses, and preventing the media from being used to spread false allegations by candidates.  With IRI support, JANIPOP observed the voter registration process and will observe the December 29, 2008 parliamentary elections.

IRI began working in Bangladesh in November 2003 with initial goals focused on strengthening domestic election monitoring and expanding the participation, leadership development and influence of women and youth in politics and civil society.

IRI has monitored more than 130 elections since 1983.

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