Politics of Bangladesh

Politics of Bangladesh

Politics of Bangladesh takes place in a
framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic,
whereby the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is the head of government, and of a
multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative
power is vested in both the government and parliament. The Constitution of
Bangladesh was written in 1972 and has undergone fifteen amendments.
Political parties and elections The three major parties in Bangladesh
are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Bangladesh Awami League and Jatiya
Party. BNP finds its allies among some Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami
Bangladesh while the Awami League aligns itself traditionally with leftist and
secularist parties. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by
former military ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has
been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is
particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era.
Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and students have been
elected to the Parliament. Three radical Islamist parties, Jagrata
Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Harkatul Jihad
were banned in February 2005 on grounds of militancy and terrorism. Following
the first series of bans, a series of bomb attacks took place in the country.
The evidence of staging these attacks by these extremist groups have been found
in the investigation, and hundreds of suspected members have been detained in
numerous security operations, including the head of those two parties in 2006.
The first recorded case of a suicide bomb attack in Bangladesh took place in
November 2005.. Extremist groups Shahadat-e-al-Hikma
Bangladesh and Hizb-ut-Tahrir Bangladesh were banned on 22 October 2009 by the
government, as the group was trying to destabilize the country by stoking the
army after the Bangladesh Rifles revolt.=General Election, 1970=
National Council Election, 1970 The election was held on 7 December
1970. The total number of voters were 29,479,386. The number of casting votes
was 17,005,163, the valid casting votes was 1,64,54,278.
The summary of the National Council Election, 1970
Provincial Council Election, 1970 The election was held on 17 December
1970. The percentage of casting votes was, and the number of reserved women
seat was 10. The summary of the Provincial Council
Election, 1970=First General Election, 1973=
The election was held on 7 March 1973. Total number of voter=3,52,05,642; Cast
votes=1,93,29,683; Valid casting votes=1,88,51,808; Reserved Women
Seats=15.=Second General Election, 1979=
The election was held on 18 February, 1979. Total number of voter=3,87,89,239;
Cast votes=1,96,76,124; Valid casting votes=1,92,68,437; Reserved Women
Seats=30.=Third General Election, 1986=
The election was held on 7 May 1986. Total number of voter=4,78,76,979; Cast
votes=2,89,03,889; Valid casting votes=—–; Reserved Women Seats=30.
=Fourth General Election, 1988=The election was held on 3 March 1988.
Total number of voter=4,98,63,829; Cast votes=2,88,73,540; Valid casting
votes=2,85,26,650; Reserved Women Seats=30.
=Fifth General Election, 1991=The election was held on 13 January
1991. Total number of voter=6,20,81,793; Cast votes=3,44,77,803; Valid casting
votes=3,41,03,777; Reserved Women Seats=30.
=Sixth General Election, 1996=Following boycotts by the main
opposition party Bangladesh Awami League, BNP won the uncontested
elections. However, amidst protests, they were made to cave into Awami
League’s original demands, dissolve the parliament, and hold elections under a
neutral caretaker government after the enactment of the 13th amendment.
=Seventh General Election, 1996=Bangladesh Awami League won the general
elections for the first time since 1973 by forming a coalition government, since
they fell 5 seats short of a majority. Results
=Eighth General Election, 2001=BNP won two-third majority in the
parliament and won the elections.=Ninth General Election, 2008=
Bangladesh Awami League won two-third majority in the parliament and won the
elections. Brief History of Caretaker Government of
Bangladesh A caretaker government was first
introduced in 1990 when three political alliances jointly made a demand for it.
Following the forced resignation of General Ershad, the three alliances
nominated then Chief Justice Shahbuddin Ahmed as the Chief Advisor. A Caretaker
government is headed by a Chief Adviser who enjoys the same power as the regular
prime minister of the country except defence matters. The Advisors function
as Ministers. Since 1996, the Caretaker government has held the elections of
1996, 2001 and 2008. Although the first caretaker government was intended to
help the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, this
system was institutionalized in 1996 by the Sixth Parliament dominated by
Bangladesh Nationalist Party, yielding to boycotting opposition pressure.
In Bangladesh, there was a Caretaker Government for the period of 1990-91
with understanding of political parties. Later, there were also CTG formed within
constitutional framework in 1996, 2001 and 2006 followed by 13th amendment to
the constitution passed in the parliament. Besides, an
extra-constitutional military-backed CTG was installed in 2007 which governed
Bangladesh without legitimacy that ultimately handed over to elected
political party following 29 December 2008 parliamentary election when they
were failed to continue as pressured by international world. According to the
provisionof CTG in the Bangladesh Constitution, there were 6 options to
appoint Chief Advisor. Last option of CA is the President. CTG had to hold
election within 90 days and in 120 days power could be handed over to elected
political party. Day to day affair or routine duty and holding parliamentary
election are mandated responsibility of CTG. The military backed CTG was formed
without constitutional provision, CA was appointed violating provision of
constitution, performed all responsibilities of regular elected
government and lasted for 2 years. Army chief used to attend the advisory
council meetings and pressured cabinet to take decision as he wanted. Advisor
to the President M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury was ousted as he was against
army move and President Iajuddin Ahmed had to run presidency at the gun point.
Lt. Gen. Moeen upgraded army chief’s rank to General and to maintain balance
also other two forces chiefs accordingly. Moeen also made his
one-year extension without lawful authority in absence of regular elected
government. Senior Advisor and Minister of State Mukhles Chowdhury tried utmost,
solved political problem and thereby brought rival political parties to the
planned parliamentary elections of 22 January 2002. However, by cancelling H M
Ershad’s nomination Moeen staged a military coup on 11 January 2007. Former
state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar was used for this
purpose. History
=Initial Resistances and the Formation of Provisional Government=
Bangladesh’s first government formed on April 10, 1971 and took oath of office
in Meherpur, Kushtia on April 17, 1971, after a brutal five division Pakistani
army crackdown on the local people of Bangladesh on March 25, 1971. Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman, the Chief of Awami League and the leader of the liberation
movement declared independence on March 26, 1971, which was broadcast from
Chittagong radio station on 27 March, first by the then Awami League Secretary
of Chittagong Mr Abdul Hannan and other Awami League leaders and then by Major
Ziaur Rahman on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the evening of 27 March.
Captain Rafiq BU Commanding Officer of Chittagong East Pakistan Rifles revolted
first and subsequently other commanding officers at different places: Major
Shafiullah, Major Khaled Musharraf and Major Ziaur Rahman revolted with their
forces. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistan Army in early
hours of 26 March, immediately after he declared independence and was taken to
West Pakistan, where he remained in jail till early January 1972.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as the first President of the Provisional
Government of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam was elected as the Vice President,
and Tajuddin Ahmend was elected as the first Prime Minister. Other major
cabinet members were Mr Kamruzzaman, Mr Monsur Ali and Khodokar Mustaq Ahmed,
all senior Awami League leaders. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by virtue of his position
as the President of Bangladesh became the Supreme Commander of the Liberation
Army, while Colonel M.A.G. Osmani was appointed by the provisional government
as the Commander-in- Chief of the liberation army. Subsequently, the
provisional government formed its secretariat and designated top
bureaucrats as chiefs of the divisions of the Secretariat. The Provisional
Government later divided Bangladesh into eleven Sectors for conducting war
efficiently and in an organized manner. This Government became the first legal
political entity on behalf of the fighting people of Bangladesh and
represented the people in the international arena. Prime Minister
Tajuddin Ahmed started intergovernmental dialogue with the Indian Government
immediately after the formation of the Provisional Government.
As this government was formed during the war of independence from Pakistan, its
significance holds a distinction. Its temporary headquarters were soon set up
at 8 Theatre Road in Calcutta, India.=1972-1975: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman=
In early January 1972 the leader of the Liberation War and Liberation movement
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan Jail and was sent to London. On
Mujib’s arrival in London, he was met by the Prime Minister of UK and other world
leaders. Sheikh Mujib returned to Bangladesh on January 10, 1972, by a
British Royal Air Force Aircraft. Mujib was placed at the helm of government,
according to the election victory under the unified Pakistan government. In 1973
after the first Bangladesh elections, he continued his term in office with
immense backing from India, and public popularity, but had great difficulty
transforming this popular support into the political strength needed to
function as head of government. The new constitution, which came into force in
December 1972, created a strong executive prime minister, a largely
ceremonial presidency, an independent judiciary, and a unicameral legislature
on a modified Westminster model. The 1972 constitution adopted as state
policy the Awami League’s four basic principles of nationalism, secularism,
socialism, and democracy. The first parliamentary elections held
under the 1972 constitution were in March 1973, with the Awami League
winning a massive majority. No other political party in Bangladesh’s early
years was able to duplicate or challenge the League’s broad-based appeal,
membership, or organizational strength. Mujib and his cabinet having no
experience in governance nor administration, relied heavily on
experienced civil servants and political factions of the Awami League, the new
Bangladesh Government focused on relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of
the economy and society. Mujib nationalised the entire economy, banking
and industrial sector. Economic conditions took a serious downturn. On
top of that heavy corruption among his own party members, factions and senior
leadership also added to the devastation and famine. The then U.S. Secretary of
State termed Bangladesh a Bottomless Basket. In December 1974, Mujib decided
that continuing economic deterioration and mounting civil disorder required
strong measures. After proclaiming a state of emergency, Mujib used his
parliamentary majority to win a constitutional amendment limiting the
powers of the legislative and judicial branches, establishing an executive
presidency, and instituting a one-party system, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik
Awami League, which all members of Parliament were obliged to join.
Despite promises, no sign of improvement in the economic situation surfaced.
Implementation of promised political reforms was almost nil, and criticism of
government policies became increasingly centered on Mujib. Serious
disorientation in the armed services, disenchantment in society, detoriaration
of law and order created a huge mistrust of Mujib and his government including
the Awami League itself. The then chief of army staff K M Shafiullah and chief
of air staff A.K. Khandker stood stunned and idle during this situation. In
August 1975, Mujib, and most of his family, were assassinated by a small
group of mid-level army officers. Mujib’s daughters, Sheikh Hasina and
Sheikh Rehana, happened to be out of the country. A new government, headed by
former Mujib associate Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, was formed.
=1975 August-1975 November=Mujib’s senior cabinet minister
Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad formed a new government and immediately initiated a
few critical changes in Mujib’s policies and rules of business in government.
However, within three months the first military coup took place in Bangladesh
by senior members of the army, removing Mushtaq and replacing his
administration. Armed forces personnel along with internal political and
government forces fell into a chaotic dispute, resulting in a vacuum at the
highest level of government.=1975-1981: Ziaur Rahman=
Following Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad’s removal, jail killings of arrested
members of Mujib’s cabinet, and assassination of Brigadier General
Khaled Musharaf by a segment of army personnel, a very short lived revolution
resulted in the emergence of arrested deputy Army Chief of Staff Major General
Ziaur Rahman, who managed to take the lead and bring the whole nation out of a
political quagmire. His first action was to communicate to the people through
radio and television and bring order and calm to the nation. He pledged full
support to the civilian government headed by President Chief Justice Sayem.
Acting at Zia’s behest, Sayem dissolved Parliament, and instituted state of
emergency under martial law. Fresh elections were to be in 1977 under a
multi party democracy with full freedom of the press.
Acting behind the scenes of the Martial Law Administration, Zia sought to
invigorate government policy and administration. Lifting the ban on
political parties from Mujib’s one party BAKSAL rule, he sought to revitalize the
demoralized bureaucracy, to begin new economic development programs,
infrastructure buildup, a free press and to emphasize family planning. In
November 1976, Zia became Chief Martial Law Administrator and assumed the
presidency upon Sayem’s retirement 5 months later, held national elections in
1978. As President, Zia announced a 19-point
program of economic reform and began dismantling the MLA. Keeping his promise
to hold elections, Zia won a 5-year term in June 1978 elections, with 76% of the
vote. In November 1978, his government removed the remaining restrictions on
political party activities in time for parliamentary elections in February
1979. These elections, which were contested by more than 30 parties,
marked the culmination of Zia’s transformation of Bangladesh’s
Government from the MLA to a democratically elected, constitutional
one. The AL and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, founded by Zia,
emerged as the two major parties. The constitution was again amended to
provide for an executive prime minister appointed by the president, and
responsible to a parliamentary majority. Zia invigiorated a strong foreign policy
based on sovereignty and economic independence. He initiated many social
programs to uplift the poor through honest hard work and education. His
greatest legacy on the people of Bangladesh was unity and
self-dependence. In May 1981, Zia was assassinated in
Chittagong by dissident elements of the military. There was no coup or uprising
attempted, and the major conspirators were never taken into custody or killed.
In accordance with the constitution, Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar was
sworn in as acting president. He immediately set out to continue Zia’s
policies and called for fresh elections. Due to President Zia’s tremendous
popularity Satter won as the BNP’s candidate. President Sattar sought to
follow the policies of his predecessor and retained essentially the same
cabinet.=1982-1990: Hussain Mohammed Ershad=
Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hussain Mohammed Ershad assumed power in the
second full-fledged but bloodless coup in March 24, 1982. He removed the
country’s democratically elected president and suspended the constitution
and declared martial law. He cited pervasive corruption, ineffectual
government, and economic mismanagement for legitimising his action. The
following year, Ershad assumed the presidency, retaining his positions as
army chief and CMLA, first time in Bangladesh. During most of 1984, Ershad
sought the opposition parties’ participation in local elections under
martial law. The opposition’s refusal to participate, however, forced Ershad to
abandon these plans. Ershad was capable of managing the Awami League through
financial and political support. Awami Leagues support gave him strength and
legitimacy to seek public support for his regime in a national referendum on
his leadership in March 1985. He won overwhelmingly, although turnout was
small. Two months later, Ershad held elections for local council chairmen.
Pro-government candidates won a majority of the posts, setting in motion the
President’s ambitious decentralization program that Ziaur Rahman had initiated.
Political life was finally liberalized in early 1986, and additional political
rights, including the right to hold large public rallies, were restored.
Additional support from Jamaati Islami at the same time gave Ershad’s political
vehicle for the transition from martial law some form of legitimacy and the
political order of Ershad and his Jatiya Party was established.
Despite a boycott by the BNP, led Begum Khaleda Zia, parliamentary elections
were held on schedule in May 1986. The Jatiya Party won a modest majority of
the 300 elected seats in the national assembly. The participation of the Awami
League led by party chairman Sheikh Hasina Wazed—lent the elections some
credibility, despite widespread charges of voting irregularities and ballot box
theft. Ershad resigned as Army Chief of Staff
and retired from military service in preparation for the presidential
elections, scheduled for October 1986. Protesting that martial law was still in
effect, both the BNP refused to put up opposing candidates. The Awami League
participated by breakinh their open public promise. Ershad easily
outdistanced the remaining candidates, taking 84% of the vote. Although
Ershad’s government claimed a turnout of more than 50%, opposition leaders of
BNP, and much of the foreign press, estimated a far lower percentage and
alleged voting irregularities. Ershad continued his stated commitment
to lift martial law. In November 1986, his government mustered the necessary
two-thirds majority in the national assembly to amend the constitution and
confirm the previous actions of the martial law regime. The President then
lifted martial law, and the opposition party Awami League of Hasina Wazed took
their elected seats in the national assembly.
In July 1987, however, after the government hastily pushed through a
controversial legislative bill to include military representation on local
administrative councils. Passage of the bill helped spark an opposition movement
by Bangladesh Nationalist Party that quickly gathered momentum. The Awami
League and Jamaat Islami. understanding their political gamble, gradually united
with Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the first time. The government began to
arrest scores of opposition activists under the country’s Special Powers Act
of 1974. Despite these arrests, opposition parties continued to organize
protest marches and nationwide strikes. After declaring a state of emergency,
Ershad dissolved Parliament and scheduled fresh elections for March
1988. All major opposition parties refused
government overtures to participate in these polls, maintaining that the
government was illegal and incapable of holding free and fair elections. Despite
the opposition boycott, the government proceeded. The ruling Jatiya Party won
251 of the 300 seats. The Parliament, while still regarded by the opposition
as an illegitimate body, held its sessions as scheduled, and passed a
large number of bills, including, in June 1988, a constitutional amendment
making Islam Bangladesh’s state religion.
By 1989, the domestic political situation in the country seemed to have
quieted. The local council elections were generally considered by
international observers to have been less violent and more free and fair than
previous elections. However, opposition to Ershad’s rule began to regain
momentum, escalating by the end of 1990 in frequent general strikes, increased
campus protests, public rallies, and a general disintegration of law and order.
On December 6, 1990, after 2 months of widespread civil unrest, Ershad offered
his resignation. On February 27, 1991, an interim government oversaw what most
observers believed to be the nation’s second most free and fair elections to
date.=Hasina-Khaleda rivalry=
1991-1996: Khaleda Zia The center-right BNP won a plurality of
seats and formed a coalition government with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami
Bangladesh, with Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, obtaining the post of
Prime Minister. Only four parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1991
Parliament: The BNP, led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia; the AL, led
by Sheikh Hasina; the Jamaat-e-Islami, led by Golam Azam; and the Jatiya Party,
led by acting chairman Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury while its founder, former
President Ershad, served out a prison sentence on corruption charges. The
electorate approved still more changes to the constitution, formally
re-creating a parliamentary system and returning governing power to the office
of the prime minister, as in Bangladesh’s original 1972 constitution.
In October 1991, members of Parliament elected a new head of state, President
Abdur Rahman Biswas. In March 1994, controversy over a
parliamentary by-election, which the opposition claimed the government had
rigged, led to an indefinite boycott of Parliament by the entire opposition. The
opposition also began a program of repeated general strikes to press its
demand that Khaleda Zia’s government resign and a caretaker government
supervise a general election. Efforts to mediate the dispute, under the auspices
of the Commonwealth Secretariat, failed. After another attempt at a negotiated
settlement failed narrowly in late December 1994, the opposition resigned
en masse from Parliament. The opposition then continued a campaign of Marches,
demonstrations, and strikes in an effort to force the government to resign. The
opposition, including the Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina, pledged to boycott
national elections scheduled for February 15, 1996.
In February, Khaleda Zia was re-elected for the second term by a landslide in
voting boycotted and denounced as unfair by the three main opposition parties. In
March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the sitting
Parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to allow a neutral caretaker
government to assume power conduct new parliamentary elections; former Chief
Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman was named Chief Advisor in the interim
government. New parliamentary elections were held in June 1996 and were won by
the Awami League; party leader Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister.
1996-2001: Sheikh Hasina Sheikh Hasina formed what she called a
“Government of National Consensus” in June 1996, which included one minister
from the Jatiya Party and another from the Jatiyo Samajtantric Dal, a very
small leftist party. The Jatiya Party never entered into a formal coalition
arrangement, and party president H.M. Ershad withdrew his support from the
government in September 1997. Only three parties had more than 10 members elected
to the 1996 Parliament: The Awami League, BNP, and Jatiya Party. Jatiya
Party president, Ershad, was released from prison on bail in January 1997.
Although international and domestic election observers found the June 1996
election free and fair, the BNP protested alleged vote rigging by the
Awami League. Ultimately, however, the BNP party decided to join the new
Parliament. The BNP soon charged that police and Awami League activists were
engaged in large-scale harassment and jailing of opposition activists. At the
end of 1996, the BNP staged a parliamentary walkout over this and
other grievances but returned in January 1997 under a four-point agreement with
the ruling party. The BNP asserted that this agreement was never implemented and
later staged another walkout in August 1997. The BNP returned to Parliament
under another agreement in March 1998. In June 1999, the BNP and other
opposition parties again began to abstain from attending Parliament.
Opposition parties have staged an increasing number of nationwide general
strikes, rising from 6 days of general strikes in 1997 to 27 days in 1999. A
four-party opposition alliance formed at the beginning of 1999 announced that it
would boycott parliamentary by-elections and local government elections unless
the government took steps demanded by the opposition to ensure electoral
fairness. The government did not take these steps, and the opposition has
subsequently boycotted all elections, including municipal council elections in
February 1999, several parliamentary by-elections, and the Chittagong city
corporation elections in January 2000. The opposition demands that the Awami
League government step down immediately to make way for a caretaker government
to preside over parliamentary and local government.
2001-2006: Khaleda Zia A Khaleda-led four-party alliance won
two-thirds of total parliamentary seats, while Awami League won only 62 seats
that represent the smallest opposition after 1991. Khaleda Zia won a second
term in 2001. Her coalition included several Islamist parties.
2006-2008: caretaker government An election was scheduled for the
beginning of 2007, however it did not take place. The caretaker government was
accused of BNP bias by Hasina and her coalition, who fomented nationwide
protests and shut-downs. Given the parties’ failure to agree on a
candidate, according to the constitution the position devolved to the President,
Iajuddin Ahmed, serving since 2002. He took it on in addition to his regular
responsibilities, which under the caretaker government included the
Defense Ministry. Iajuddin Ahmed formed a government, appointing ten advisors to
a council to act as ministers. He appointed his press spokesman, the
journalist-editor turned politician M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, as his chief
Presidential Advisor, with the status of Minister of State. Chowdhury had the
responsibility to negotiate with the political parties to bring them to
participation in the election. In January 2007, the head of the caretaker
government stepped down, under pressure from the military.
Fakhruddin Ahmed, former World Bank economist, was selected to replace him
and has committed himself to rooting out corruption and preparing a better voter
list. A State of Emergency was declared and a massive campaign to crack down on
corruption is underway. By July 2007 some 200,000 people had been arrested.
The government says it will hold elections before the end of 2008.
In April, Ahmed’s military back administration attempted to reform the
political parties by exiling Hasina and Zia, but they backed down amid domestic
and international protestations. Hasina, who had been visiting her children in
the US, was allowed to return but she faced serious charges, including
involvement in the assassination of four political rivals. In July, she was taken
into custody after two businessmen testified that she had extorted ৳80
million from them. This provoked angry protests from her supporters; even her
bitter rival Khaleda Zia, as well as six British MPs and MEPs, called for her
release. Khaleda herself faces charges of tax evasion.
2009-2013: Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to
power through winning vast majority of parliament seats the election held on
December 29, 2008 and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina becomes the
Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the second time. Her cabinet took oath of
office on January 6, 2009. 2014-Present: Sheikh Hasina
In the tenth general election, Sheikh Hasina won a controversial one-sided
walkover election after her main rival Khaleda Zia and all other opposition
parties boycotted the polls. Snap elections are likely to be held before
the tenth parliament expires in 2019 to ensure that all parties participate.
See also Government of Bangladesh
Cabinet of Bangladesh References
External links Global Integrity Report: Bangladesh has
details of anti-corruption efforts.

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