New York, NY (BBN)– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has set up a high-level team to scrutinize the staging next month of parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, which has been beset by political violence and polarization in recent years.

“The panel is tasked with assessing the preparations and conduct of the elections through visits to Bangladesh before and during the elections,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson on Friday.

Parliamentary polls are slated to take place on 18 December, and the country’s caretaker government had asked Mr. Ban to set up a high-level panel as part of efforts to ensure the elections are free and fair.

On Sunday the three-member panel begins its first visit to the South Asian nation, and expects to return for about a week around the time of the election, before reporting back to the UN chief with its key findings and recommendations.

Francesc Vendrell, the Secretary-General’s former personal representative for Afghanistan and European Union envoy to the same country, will head the panel. The other members are Bhojraj Pokharel, Nepal’s Chief Election Commissioner, and Aracelly Santana, the former deputy director of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division.

While visiting Bangladesh earlier this month, Mr. Ban described the upcoming polls as an “historic opportunity” for the country.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-22November08-1:08 PM (BST)