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Political Parties

Parliamentary Election20012008
Bangladesh Awami LeagueAL62230
Bangladesh Nationalist PartyBNP193 29
Jatiya PartyJP1427
Jatiya Samajtantric Dal-JasadJSDJ3
Bangladesh Workers PartyBWP2
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-IslamiBJI172
Bangladesh Jatiya PartyBJP1
Liberal Democratic PartyLDP1
Others Parties-9-
Independent Candidate-64

Political parties have become institutionalised at the local level and have functioning, semi-responsive local structures, enabling them to ensure loyalties of local government representatives and to control or influence local development processes and administration. This process is not entirely negative as local political rivalry may galvanise more effective service provision: but at best, this is good politics, not good governance. a positive dimension to the politicisation of public life is that politics is highly participative, featuring high levels of interest and engagement in politics.

Amid the welter of conflicting groups, there are two political parties in the country that have long histories, some claim to support from wide constituencies, and that have alternated power since independence. These two parties are led by two women who are heirs to the party founders. The secular Awami League is led by Sheikh Hasina, daughter of assasinated President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the far-right leaning Bangladesh Nationalist Party is led by Khaleda Zia, widow of assasinated President Ziaur Rahman.

Another centrist party - Jatiya Party [aka Jatiyo Party] - was formed under military rule in the 1980s and continues to command some public support. To the left were the Bangladesh Workers Party [formerly the pro-Soviet Bangladesh Communist Party], factions of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party), and other socialist groups advocating revolutionary change. To the right was a group of parties, including Bangladesh Jamaytee Islami [Jamaat e Islami] and the Muslim League, that called for an increased role for Islam in public life. All of the minor political parties in Bangladesh clustered around the policies and the activities of these five main political forces.

There are upwards of a hundred other political parties in Bangladesh. The majority of these parties were based solely in urban areas and had tiny constituencies. Many of them were formed by small cliques of like-minded intellectuals or by political leaders who, with their small followings, had broken away from larger political groups. There was a steady turnover in the composition of these smaller fringe groups, which nevertheless continue to organize periodic demonstrations and issue press releases.

One of the most salient characteristics of Bangladeshi politics in the first two decades after independence was the drive toward the concentration of power in a single party headed by a strong executive. This process began in 1975 when the Awami League, even with a huge mandate from the people, proved incapable of governing the country, prompting Mujib to form a monolithic national party, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Bangladesh Peasants, Workers, and People's League).

After Zia consolidated his military dictatorship, he formed his own Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which took control of Parliament and attracted opportunistic politicians from the opposition to a strong, centrist platform. Ershad's regime followed Zia's model, with martial law succeeded by the formation of a centrist party -- the Jatiyo Party -- and the orchestration of a civilian government supporting a strong executive.

Each time a new national party came to power, it banished the opposition into illegal status or manipulated the administrative machinery for its own advantage, driving the opposition into the streets. Parliamentary elections mirrored this process. The Awami League, which was dominant in the early 1970s, progressively moved to the periphery of the electoral process in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, despite continuing support for its programs from large segments of the population. The same fate was in store for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which thrived while Zia lived but was reduced to boycotting the electoral process after 1981.

The party in power periodically offered attractive government posts to opposition leaders in return for political loyalty or neutrality. During the presidencies of Zia and Ershad, the number of cabinet positions steadily expanded, as potentially influential politicians received rewards for cooperating with the party in power. Before elections, or at about the time of major parliamentary votes, newspapers have carried stories about entire labor unions or blocs of opposition workers who joined the president's party.

Throughout Bangladesh’s recent political history, the country’s long-established political parties have invested great authority in their leaders but struggled over how best to encourage participation and incorporate input from their large and diverse memberships. Political parties now recognize a need to increase their meaningful interactions with voters between elections and to develop inclusive strategic visions for the future.

Party leaders appoint candidates for elections, and there are allegations that wealthy candidates could purchase nominations from party leaders with campaign contributions or personal gifts. Political parties are highly centralized and lack adequate internal governance. The constitutional structure of the country provides for a winner-take-all parliamentary system. For the democratic system to work, the political parties must be reliable vehicles for citizen input and elected representatives must faithfully represent the interests of their constituents. In an effort to support broad-based political development and inclusion, Bangladesh’s political parties are working to develop solution-oriented policies responsive to citizens’ needs before and after elections.

The Representation of the People's Order (Amendment) Ordinance 2008 significantly changed the electoral law that had been in place since 1972, in an attempt to address corruption in politics. The major political parties considered some of the new provisions in the bill, such as the abolition of students' and women's wings and foreign chapters, to be undemocratic, but they accepted the changes with some reluctance and revised their party constitutions. Under the amended ordinance, candidates must reveal information about their education, wealth, and criminal records when they file to run for parliament. Most political parties submitted statements to the election commission outlining expenditures and sources of funds by the September deadline.

Individual members of student wings from all major parties were responsible for numerous acts of on-campus violence, During the year 2010, auxiliary student wings were formally severed from the political parties and, according to media and human rights sources, many incidents of violence were related to criminal activities or personal as opposed to political vendettas, Despite the ban, some politicians from all major parties mobilized members of student wings for movements and demonstrations.

Police are organized nationally under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and have a mandate to maintain internal security and law and order. Under recent governments, police generally were ineffective and reluctant to investigate persons affiliated with the ruling party.

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Page last modified: 16-12-2013 18:47:53 ZULU