Published : Tuesday, 2 January, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir
A free and fair election with all-party participation is one of the main prerequisites of a democratic government. In this process, several entities need to play some fundamental roles to ensure that the people can partake and utilize their voting power appropriately to elect their representatives.
Among the stakeholders, political parties are required to perform an important part as they deploy the candidates for the people to vote and also make sure the government carries out their duties as expected to uphold people’s rights.
We, as people, look at these parties and their leaders to shape up our future and so, it is very crucial that the political parties play their due roles honestly.
Over 40 registered political parties along with many unregistered ones are active in the politics of Bangladesh. Several parties have applied to the Election Commission seeking registration keeping in view the upcoming parliamentary election.
In spite of that, the politics of Bangladesh is actually bi-polar. The ruling Bangladesh Awami League and the largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — though not part of the current parliament– hold the two poles of Bangladeshi politics.
Several other political parties have tried to push themselves to the frontline as leading political entities, but could not make any headway. Jatiyo Party, the current opposition in the parliament, and fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party had some impact on the people in the past which significantly declined in recent years.
AL-led 14-party alliance and BNP-led 20-party alliance include their small allies appear to have only marginal influence on the people of Bangladesh. This leads Bangladesh to be a two-party political entity in reality.
Political parties need to ensure free, fair and credible elections so to ensure democratic governance in Bangladesh as emphasized in our constitution. But regrettably, the reality lies far from that.
The main focus of political parties is on gaining or retaining power only utilizing the concept of democracy. They almost completely forgot the people’s welfare issues and importance of voter’s participation in polls in last few decades.
After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introduced the concept of democracy in Bangladesh through an election in 1973, which the Awami League had swept as was expected. It was possible mainly due to Bangabandhu’s charismatic leadership and his towering popularity. With his brutal murder in 1975, Bangladesh lost its democratic stature and was ruled by autocratic military leaders for 15 years.
In 1991, a joint movement of AL and BNP ended the last autocratic regime and BNP formed the democratic government. Democracy was restored and sustained in six subsequent national elections though many attributes of good democratic practices were missing at several instances. Truly, the political parties had played the greatest role in restoring democracy in Bangladesh and now it is their duty to ensure people’s rights and welfare under democratic governance.
The first role of the political parties is to get registered with the election commission to participate in the polls. It is mandatory for all parties. During the registration process, they need to submit the constitution of their respective party, their election manifesto, regulations of the party, party’s logo and flag, party’s source of funds and furnish some other information.
Most importantly, the parties must disclose their ideology through submitting its constitution and manifesto. We cannot allow any party with extremist ideology to do politics in Bangladesh. No party working against the sovereignty and constitution of Bangladesh should be registered with the Election Commission (EC).
Registering with the EC also requires disclosing the source of funds which is to be checked with utmost priority. The corruption record of the political parties can be revealed if information are verified with care. Information regarding extremist parties receiving foreign funds can be exposed. Coordination between the EC and relevant authorities are required in this matter to trace out useful information to bring in good political parties in the scene.
Many political parties are doing politics without registering for years. Few applied for registration but yet to be registered and others did not even apply. AL-led 14-party alliance as well as BNP-led 20-party alliance contains some unregistered parties.
This is completely unexpected as these two alliances are trading with the future of this nation. The Election Commission has no information on the activities of these parties though they are allies with the government and opposition of Bangladesh. Risk of promoting extremism and anti-independence ideology gets enhanced due to such lacking.
Political parties must nominate good candidates as prospective representative of the people. This will enable the citizens to choose members of parliaments who will fight for protecting their rights. But that is not the case in Bangladesh.
Muscle and money of a candidate is prioritized over his political background. A huge business is involved with nomination from renowned political parties. We often find businessmen and gangsters nominated by major parties and they will never think of people’s welfare rather will use political power to achieve illegal goals.
Participating in the parliamentary works is another major responsibility of the political parties. The parliamentary dialogue has become obsolete today. Both AL and BNP, when in opposition, continuously boycotted the sessions of parliament. They were active on the streets trying to create chaos and violence.
Upholding the people’s rights and welfare, another critical responsibility of the political parties, seems ignored in Bangladesh. Neither the government nor the opposition raises their voice for protecting citizens’ interest.
Usually, opposition is always vocal on the issues of human rights and welfare. But our opposition is busy only in protecting their own interests and shouting for “restoring” democracy, for their game of grabbing power.
In democracy, the political parties perform many other major functions like; enabling the parliamentary government, facilitating governance, formulating public policies, promoting public opinion, providing political stability and helping in the recruitment of leaders. All these responsibilities require a solid, uncorrupted and uncompromising base first.
Holding the nationalist idea should be a must for all the political parties in Bangladesh. No political party should be allowed to operate if their ideology does not protect the national interest.
No unregistered political parties should be allowed to operate for more than five years. It will give us better control over the motto of these parties who can even be involved with terrorism, extremism and anti-state conspiracy.
The authority should strictly monitor activities of the unregistered political parties and should ban them if not registered within five years as that is an adequate period to establish their activities and structure throughout the country.
Political parties must conduct the nomination process without corruption. Only the candidates who are involved with politics and social works for an adequate period and possess proper education and no corruption record should receive nomination. Political parties should realize their duty to ensure better future of the citizens of Bangladesh and for that, they must push the good leaders forward without considering their muscle power or money.
Not only democracy is required in country’s politics, but also inside the parties. Political parties should allow the voices of its activists and provide scope so that leaders can rise from the field level.
In our country, most of the parties follow an autocratic process for formation which gives little scope for growth from the root level. But their constitution and structure must be designed to promote democratic practice within the parties itself.
The only focus of all political parties has to concern with people’s welfare. They must raise their voice on each and every people’s issue if they want the support of the people in the election. People will not vote for them to handover the crown unless they serve their interest.
In a democratic government, it is the duty of the political parties to ensure good governance through constructive criticism of the policies and decisions of the government. Only through performing their duties properly, sustainable democracy can be established in Bangladesh. Hence, we, as people, expect our political parties to realize and perform their roles with sincerity and honesty for welfare of the people.
The writer is the Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)