Introduction : We have passed about thirty years since independence but our achievements in the spheres of democracy and development are not noteworthy. Even the country today is riddled with numerous problems threatening the very development of democracy. Our society with an underdeveloped political culture and poverty riden illiterate and incompetent masses is lacking democratic political organizations, institutions and practices. However, the prospects for a politically developed and economically prosperous nation is marked by peoples eagerness to democracy and progress, nation’s march toward a two party system and politician’s realization that there is no way but election to capture power.
Concept of democracy : As a concept, ‘democracy’ is pervasive in modern value system but elusive in definition. In general, democracy is defined as a political system which meets three essential conditions-
1. meaningful and extensive competition among individuals and organized groups, either directly or indirectly, for major positions of governmental power,
2. a highly inclusive level of political participation in the selection of leaders and polices, at least through regular and fair elections;
3. a level of civil and political liberties sufficient to ensure the integrity of political competition and participation.
(Dahl, Polyarehy; Participation and opposition).
Thus, democracy involves the following aspects to be cared of
– popular consent;
– majority rule;
– periodical election;
– A widespread habit of tolerance and compromise among members community;
– Rule of law and constitutionals;
– Freedom of speech, publication and association;
Democracy in Bangladesh: Problems and prospects
Since her emergence in 1971, Bangladesh is continuously struggling to make herself a democratically developed nation. But several political ups and downs like introduction of one party system by Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, Military rule by Zia and Ershad and irresponsible competition of political parties to capture power have placed the democratic journey of the country at stake. However, the nation has restarted her journey to democracy with over through of Ershad in 1990 but the path is not moisturized still now.
Problems of Democracy in Bangladesh:
Among numerous problems the most important and worry some problems may be identified as under :
1. Absence of a democratic political culture : Bangladesh is lacking a democratic political culture. Democratic orientations and practices are not seen in our polity and society. Peoples competence to cope with the democratic norms and values is not adequate. Even opportunities for democratic learning are not available in our educational as well as political institutions. Thus, democratic norms and values could not strike roof in our society and polity.
2. Absence of the rule of law : In our country, rule of law has become merely a farce instead of making up the sun that shines on democracy. Today it has become the part of our political culture that police took action against oppositions and turned a blind eye to the real perpetrators. In case of bails to the political activists, the judge simply act to the wishes of political masters.
3. Lack of political morality : Our politicians lack political morality which is marked by special provision for caretaker government instead of political government to arrange national election. It is a sign of popular distrust on our politicians. However, the provision for caretaker government is positive for democracy enough to teach our politicians about the lack of their political morality and trust on themselves.
4. Absence of a strong civil society : Bangladesh has failed to establish a strong civil society which could ground the liberalism and put flesh on the skeleton of democracy. Even we are lacking a civil culture which could structure the social space of civil society in public regarding ways, anchoring individual identity and conscience in shared norms of solidarity, trust and reciprocity. Our intellectuals are merely the prop of ruling classes.
5. Absence of strong political leadership : Bangladesh is lacking of strong patriotic political leadership essential for leading the nation toward progress and stability. Our leaders do not hold image to unite the nation in a platform. Because they consider themselves as leader of their party not the nation as a whole.
6. Confrontational politics : Politics in our country is confrontational in nature where there is no cooperation, trust and solidarity among political parties and groups. There is no consensus among political parties on issues of national interest. They oppose each other only for the sake of opposition.
7. Ineffective political institutions: Our political institutions are not strong and developed enough to render required services in way of democratization and political development. Our parliament does not work effectively due to continuous boycott by opposition and it’s role as a ground for deliberation proved to be ineffective. Our political parties are safe shelter of vested interests. Thus, their role to institutionalize democracy is not only inadequate but also unacceptable.
8. Corruption and terrorism : Corruption and terrorism are two terrible barriers to democratic development in our country. Although the then govt. refused the claim, Transparency International has ranked Bangladesh as most corrupt nation of the world. Terrorism is not unconcerned to none of our citizens. Thus, greatest challenge before the nation is to uproot corruption and terrorism from our society.
9. Negativity/Double standard : Double standard attitude is a great barrier to democratic development as it discourage to accept others. Everything is just if it favours ones own interest, otherwise it is wrong. An election is fair if the result is favorable otherwise it is unfair. Such kind of attitude forces our politicians to stereotyped enmity and distrust.
10. Lack of tolerance and reciprocity : There is a lack of tolerance, mutual respect, trust and reciprocity among our politicians and political parties. Compromise and consensus is absent from our polity which influence enmity among politician and jeopardise the growth democracy in the country.
Prospects of Democracy in Bangladesh
Inspite of numerous problems and obstacles in the run up of democracy in our country, there are cheers for democracy envisaged in the very process of our politics and governance. Such as
1. Homogeneous character of the people : The people of our country are almost homogeneous in their origin, socio-economic and political belief as well as in their character. Except some minorities in CHT, almost all the people are from Bengali origin and about 85 percent of the people are Muslims. Such homogeneous character of the people is a positive side for democratic development.
2. March toward two party system : Although there are too many political parties in Bangladesh, the result of recently poll envisage the march of nation toward a two party system.
3. Provision for caretaker government : Inspite of some preordained blames of defeated parties, caretaker government has to be credited for holding a free and fair poll which given nation confidence on very process of election and politics.
4. Peoples eagerness for democracy : The presence of voters in polling centers, their enthusiasm about election and politics and their verdict against misdeed of govt. both in 1996 and 2001, proved that people are eager to democracy and it is increasing day by day.
5. Peaceful transition of power : After completion of five years term, the AL government has transferred power in the hand of a non-party caretaker government and after a free and fair election, the CG has transferred the power to an elected government. Such process of peaceful transition of power is a positive sign of democratic development in the country
What is to be done :
1. Our politicians should realize that they have a responsibility to build up the nation and they should pay due respect to people’s will and expectations.
2. Both the government and opposition should work under democratic norms and values instead of confrontation and egoism.
3. Attempts should be made to make our parliament as the center of all political activities. Thus, both govt. and opposition should have due respect to parliamentary norms, values and procedure. In this regard, the
speaker must be neutral in playing his role in the parliament
4. Consensus among political parties is a must to fight against corruption and terrorism. Otherwise, all the achievement would be mull and vaid.
5. Our politicians should be positive in playing their role in the polity. They must realize that politics is not a zero-sum game rather it is a cooperative business for the greater will being of the nation.
6. Our political parties and politicians must work in cooperation with each other instead of opposition for the sake of opposition.
7. There should have consensus among political parties about national key issues. For this, our politicians must give up their egoism and realize that national interest is more than that of personal, group or party interest.
In fine, effort should be continued to make our people politically aware and habituated with democratic norms, values and practices. As a result, the media, civil society and socio-political organizations and institutions must play the pioneering role.