Will Democracy function in Bangladesh?


In political world the most talking subject is Democracy. Among all the political system democracy is the most popular political system. It because all the citizens are able to have their say in one way another in everything that effect their lives. We can think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

In democratic system people choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. People are the highest form of authority. Power flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily. People are free to criticize their elected leaders and representative. Elected representative are bound to listen to the local people and response their needs. In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary. No one should be forced to join an organization against their will. Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority. Democracy is a system of rule by laws, not by individuals. No one is above the law, not even the elected prime-minister. No one may be arrested, imprisoned, or exiled arbitrarily. And their are lot more individual and group rights. In one sentence Democracy gives the citizen all rights whatever they want to do and they can say any thing as long it did not violate others rights. Unfortunately, we call our self Representative Democracy are not truly Democracies according to above definition. Most of our leaders are elected Dictatorship. People can vote in every five years. They can’t participate in any other issue. They just elect their so called representatives who then until the next elections have no obligations by law and little incentives to base their decisions on individual issues on the wishes on their electorate.

Bangladesh has been known as democratic country since 1990. After then in every five years a parliamentary election has been held. Due to emergency situation in 2007 election has been canceled. Now Bangladesh is expecting another parliament election in December 29. However all media and other scholars expected Bangladesh will be again as democratic country. But I think it will not possible. Because we are not truly practicing democracy. When Ershad regime was brought down in 1990 in a mass upsurge, it was expected that with a few free, fair and impartial elections, Bangladesh would be on its way to a better future — a future people aspired for and deserved. However, the reality turned out to be very different. In fact, the situation turned into a sort of nightmare. Elections, instead of establishing people’s rule, brought corrupt, black money and muscle power holders, and most of all, incompetents to power. Such unscrupulous elected representatives not only engaged in plundering themselves, they also politicized all institutions by employing partisan individuals, illegally doled out patronage to cronies, resulting in a rule of the largely corrupt, incompetent and partisan individuals in most spheres of the society. Because of such abuses and corruption, all the government services and institutions are now crumbling. So it was not a wise assumption if this year election brought our country a better future.
It seems every political party is preparing to face another election in December 29th. But does any thing change? Of course few things have been changed.

  1. Transparent ballot box
  2. Redefining the boundaries of precinct
  3. Voter ID card.
  4. Reform of Election Commotion.

But does it change all the scenario of our past experience. Can we expect whoever elect in this election will bring the democracy in Bangladesh. Can we imagine a country where national Leaders are discussing about general people needs and demand in the National Parliament? I have doubt about it. This year election 33 percent are brand new voter who are giving their vote for their first time. So far no political parties have not talk anything about these major citizens. Democracy is a system which needs to practice from root level to lower level. People need to say their needs and political parties are able to give their explanation whatever they do. But our past experience says none of this is practicing in Bangladesh.

When so-called democracy was restored in 1990 through a mass upsurge we expected a vibrant and accountable democratic system to take root, instead we saw a dysfunctional democracy where, instead of becoming the first among the equals, the office of the Prime Minister has been used in the most tyrannical manner. Her wishes remained command for her party MPs; a coterie was formed around her inner circle, which manipulated government tenders, gave shelter to killers and earned millions through extortion and selling nomination papers. Inside a political party none of the member can practice democracy. Article 70 of the Bangladesh Constitution prevents floor crossing by MPs. Any parliamentarian who violates this provision can be removed from office by their party — a dictatorial policy that sets the will of the party leaders above the voice of the electorate.

One major problem in Bangladesh is their is constant lawlessness in every sector. Law is controlled by some people who are rich and who have power. General people never expect fair judgment unless some miracle happens. It was found out the police and some ex-defense minister himself is cause of breaking the law. However with all these messes 1/11 occurs and present caretaker government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed has took some steps to bring peace in country. Though, this government was criticized and also apposite for his various steps.

So it was clear that their is no democracy exists in present condition in Bangladesh. Individual have no freedom. their problems do not considered. And people do not get proper judgment. Politics is become a business. Some corrupt leaders, bureaucrats and business syndicates created a vicious cycle of exploitation and an axis of evil coalition. Every citizen’s heart is crying. After 37 years of independence we still see poverty, social inequality & misrule, Bangladesh consecutively score high in the corruption perception index published by TIB and the political parties who are compete election for power.

But don’t we have any hope. Yes we do have. But for that it needs great patios. Every citizen need to aware about the current situation and need to take correct steps. The 9th parliamentary election may be an opportune moment which we can skillfully utilize for designing our destiny towards a democratic people’s government. It needs to make a clear statement that we are not merely the passive voters; we are also active citizen and above all the owner the country. We don’t want “democracy for the party, we don’t want government for the party”, but we want “government of the people, by the people & for the people”. We have lots of demands & they have to be fulfilled. In this election people can choose their leaders who are really want to do work for the people for the society and for the country. If they can’t find any better political leaders they have an option to give a NO Vote.

It is not properly true that their is nothing happen in past few years. This caretaker Government took necessary steps to separate Judiciary from government. And they also free the anti corruption commotion and obviously the promise of free and fair election. This was significant. Though their are lots of thing to be done. Like initiate the amendment of article 70 of the constitution, proper time schedule for both the ruling party and from the opposition party, need to active the local government and their are lot more. But the good news is so far some small amount of work has been done. It has been observed with utter frustration that political parties of all hues talk untiringly on free, fair & peaceful election but none of them are telling the people what they are going to do for the people after winning the election. Now time has come to let us make it known that we are not merely publics & passive voters, we are also active citizen and above all the owner of the country. We have lots of demands. The political parties have to fulfill our demands for getting our votes. We will not be slave of symbols. We can & will choose best and honest candidates amongst the lot. And eventually those politicians who are making business to politics will dropout.
Other important thing is; Democracy can’t be achieved in one day or some few days. It needs time. After independence Bangladesh was under Military government for half of her life. Now the approach is changing. Every citizen seems to know about their leader. And they want to believe that their is still hope in our country. By free and fair election democracy can be achieve.

  1. http://www.stanford.edu/~ldiamond/iraq/WhaIsDemocracy012004.htm
  2. http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/03/11/d603111501108.htm
  3. http://www.asianewsnet.net/news.php?sec=1&id=2927
  4. http://ahmedehussain.blogspot.com/2008/08/will-democracy-get-fresh-start-in.html

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