Resurgence of fake election observers raises concerns in Bangladesh


As the next general election in Bangladesh approaches, the ruling Awami League government seems to be making the same mistake it did in 2018, allowing fake election observers to cast doubts on the legitimacy of the entire process once again.

Following the December 30 general elections in 2018, where the ruling Awami League and its leftist-Islamist coalition won 290 out of 300 seats in the parliament, an investigative report by Dhaka’s leading English newspaper, The Daily Star, exposed the dubious nature of “foreign observers” who had praised the election as “peaceful” and “credible”. The report suggests that these observers may have been sponsored or affiliated with the ruling party and its Islamist ally, Jatiya Party.

In the report titled – ‘দু’টি নির্বাচন পর্যবেক্ষক সংস্থা সমাচার’ [All about the two observer agencies] published on January 8, 2019, The Daily Star said, two election monitoring organization which were covered in the Bangladeshi and international media to prove credibility of the election were ‘SAARC Human Rights Foundation’ and ‘Election Monitoring Forum’. These two organizations held a press conference on December 31 in Dhaka’s National Press saying, “Eleventh parliamentary elections have been better, fair and neutral than the past”.

The two observer organizations in question were the ‘SAARC Human Rights Foundation’ and ‘Election Monitoring Forum.’ Notably, the ‘SAARC Human Rights Foundation’ is not affiliated with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and is led by a radical Muslim named Mawlana Mohammad Abed Ali.

Interestingly, Abed Ali is also the Executive Director of the ‘Election Monitoring Forum,’ an organization that lacks a website.

Mawlana Abed Ali is the Secretary General of the SAARC Human Rights Foundation (SHRF).

Further investigation reveals that several MPs from the ruling Awami League and Jatiya Party hold positions as Chairman and advisors of the SAARC Human Rights Foundation, and the organization receives financial assistance from these individuals. Such affiliations with political parties should make these organizations ineligible as election observers, as per the Election Monitoring Policy of the Bangladesh Election Commission. However, the Election Commission overlooked these affiliations while registering these dubious organizations as election watchdogs.

During the 2018 general election, two Canadian nationals named Tania Dawn Foster and Chally Foster presented themselves as “international observers” monitoring elections in many countries, including Bangladesh.

However, there is no evidence of their existence as election observers anywhere else in the world or even in Canada. This raises suspicions that they may have been invited to Bangladesh by Mawlana Abed Ali or ruling party leaders to play the role of foreign observers during the election.

Who were Abed Ali’s Canadian ‘observers’ in 2018?

During the 2018 general election, two Canadian nationals named Tania Dawn Foster and Chally Foster proclaimed themselves as “international observers” monitoring elections in “many countries” in the world. But, in the entire web, there is no existence of any election observer named Tania Dawn Foster and Chally Foster. The only information available is about their appearance as observers during the 2018 general election in Bangladesh.

Tania Dawn Foster and Chally Foster are siblings and their claim of observing election in other countries is false. Even in Canada, none of the organizations have ever heard these names as being election observers.

Even there is no existence of any Tania Dawn Foster or Chally Foster in the social media or any other election-related contents. Considering these facts, it may be concluded – Tania Dawn Foster and Chally Foster were invited in Bangladesh either by Moulana Abed Ali or those leaders of the ruling party to perform the role of foreign observers during the 2018 general elections.

Meanwhile, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), a reputable regional network in Asia working on the promotion of democratic elections, was unable to observe the 2018 general elections in Bangladesh due to delays in issuing accreditation. ANFREL, which has conducted 57 election observation missions across Asia since its establishment in 1997, was a notable absence during the critical election.

The resurgence of fake election observers raises serious concerns about the credibility and transparency of the upcoming general election in Bangladesh.

The ruling Awami League government must address these issues and ensure that the election process remains free, fair, and inclusive to uphold the integrity of the democratic process. Without proper measures to prevent the influence of dubious observers, the election’s legitimacy could once again come under question, further polarizing the nation and damaging its democratic institutions.

More about Mawlana Abed Ali

According to social media account of Mawlana Abed Ali, he hails from Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh and went to Jamia Ahmadia Sunnia Alia Madrasha. Surprisingly on his social media account Mawlana Abed Ali claims to have studied at “University, Bangladesh” although there is no existence of any such university in the country. He also claims to be affiliated with the following organizations and institutions:

Advisor, Darul Ihsan University; Chairman, Election Monitoring Forum EMF; and Secretary General Central Committee, SAARC Human Rights Foundation. He has edited a book titled ‘শত বিষয়ে শত লেখকের দৃষ্টিতে বঙ্গবন্ধু’ (Bangabandhu in the eyes of hundreds of writers on hundreds of topics).

Bangladesh government needs to stay-away from fake election observers

The Bangladesh government must take decisive action to distance itself from fake election observers and ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The presence of dubious observer organizations, which may be affiliated with or sponsored by the ruling party, raises serious concerns about the transparency and credibility of elections in the country.

To maintain the trust of the people and uphold democratic principles, the government should strictly adhere to the Election Monitoring Policy and disqualify any organization with connections to political parties from being enrolled as election observers. The Bangladesh Election Commission also bears the responsibility of thoroughly vetting observer organizations to ensure their impartiality and credibility.

By allowing fake election observers to be part of the electoral process, the government risks undermining public confidence in the legitimacy of the elections and may fuel unrest and protests. It is essential for the government to create an environment that fosters free and fair elections, with a level playing field for all political parties and independent observers.

Furthermore, the government should encourage reputable and independent election monitoring organizations, both from within the country and internationally, to observe the electoral process. Transparency and accountability are vital for strengthening democracy and ensuring that the will of the people is accurately reflected in the election results.

The presence of fake election observers not only tarnishes the image of Bangladesh’s democratic institutions but also raises concerns about the government’s commitment to democratic values. It is in the best interest of the country and its people that the government takes immediate action to distance itself from such entities and ensures that future elections are conducted in a transparent and credible manner. Only then can Bangladesh progress as a thriving democracy and uphold the principles of democratic governance.


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