The country is in a process of depoliticisation with a gradual decline in the number of politicians in the Jatiya Sangsad, lack of oppositional political activism outside the parliament, criminalisation of politics and the absence of a credible electoral process, according to politicians and members of the civil society.
They also observed a widening vacuum in politics with a waning participation of politicians in the parliament in recent time.
‘There is a regime in power, comprising a section of politicians, businesspeople and retired people from the administration, which has depoliticised the entire political system and the electoral process,’ Bangladesh Nationalist Party standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told New Age on Wednesday.
‘Depoliticisation is detrimental to any country,’ he went on.
He observed that the country had been going through a political void in the absence of a normal democratic environment for too long, adding that it is run using fear psychosis with the help of state apparatuses.
Emphasising the need for filling the void, he said that restoration of democracy, people’s ownership of power, law and order, media freedom and security of life by establishing a representative government were the destination for the democratic forces.
‘Bangladesh has to reach this destination,’ he stressed.
On a question about intra-party democratic practices within the BNP, he claimed that the party had started working to ensure elected leadership at all levels of it.
The party’s national standing committee now convenes a meeting every week to make decisions after holding discussions based on an agenda, he said, adding that it is better to make decisions in a body instead of individually.
The BNP held its last triennial national council in March 2016 and the party’s national executive committee has not met once, the party’s vice-chairman Hafiz Uddin Ahmed has said recently.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh’s presidium member Haider Akbar Khan Rano, too, observed that the country had been in a process of depoliticisation for many days in the absence of a healthy political process.
The political process is not normal without democratic practices in Bangladesh as there are political parties with hardly any political activities due to the criminalisation of politics and the prevalence of corruption, he told New Age on Wednesday.
Quarters are active to squiz the political process and extremists are out to fill the void created, said Rano.
The septuagenarian politician emphasised building up mass organisations and forging a people’s movement to get rid of the process of depoliticisation.
‘There is no alternative to it,’ he observed.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that 17.5 per cent of the members of the first parliament of the independent Bangladesh in1973 were businessmen, but their proportion rose to 59 per cent in the 10th parliament and 61 per cent in the current 11th parliament.
Only 5 per cent of the current MPs are politicians while the figure was 7 per cent in the 10th parliament, according to the Parliament Watch published by the TIB.
‘Non-political persons have occupied politics in exchange for money, which has become the principal factor in the elections and the political arena,’ he told New Age.
Over the years, mainstream politicians have been becoming extinct as businesspeople and retired bureaucrats have occupied their space in politics irrespective of big and small parties, he went on.
The criminalisation of politics, buying and selling of nominations in the elections in various forms and using politics as a tool for making money are ominous signs for democracy, he added.
Among the members of the 10th parliament, 13 per cent were lawyers and 21 per cent from other professions, including teachers, doctors, farmers, retired government and military officers, housewives and consultants etc, he mentioned.
The corresponding figures for the current 11th Jatiya Sangsad are identical.
Amid a turbulent political situation, the 10th JS elections were held on 5 January 2014, in which 153 candidates became lawmakers without contest and the Awami League and its alliance partners formed the government on the basis of an absolute majority with 82 per cent seats, according to the TIB.
The 11th parliamentary elections were held on 30 December 2018. All registered political parties took part in the elections.
The TIB observed that due to control and influence of the ruling Awami League over the administration, law enforcement agencies and a controversial and discriminatory position of the Election Commission, equal opportunities were not ensured for all political parties.
Professor Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, who was a teacher at the University of Dhaka, said, ‘The political situation in the country is not good.’
Democracy in the country has been kept limited to holding elections and winning them by applying force to form a government, a practice that has created a dislike among the people of the entire political process in general and the electoral process in particular, he told New Age.
There is hardly any way out of this situation soon as the way politics has been conducted over the years with a surge in corruption and unfairness at every tier of society, said Haq, also a language movement veteran.
A popular distaste for politics is also prevalent despite progress in economy, agriculture, science and technology, which has helped most of the people to go above the level of abject poverty, he observed.
To bring about improvement in politics, he said, the political parties should maintain intra-party democratic practices and pursue mental and moral development.
The ruling Awami League’s joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, however, blamed the opposition BNP for creating the vacuum in politics.
‘There is a void in politics created by the BNP, which is considered by the people as the opposition party,’ he told New Age.
The BNP, which was never a democratic organistion, is inactive as it is far away from politics now, he said.
An indolent BNP with no political activities, Hanif stated, is a matter of grave concern as religious political parties are trying to fill the void.
A strong opposition is essential for maintaining healthy democratic practices, said Hanif, also a current MP.
Ganosamhati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki observed that politicians had been marginalised in the power structure over the years in the absence of even a rudimentary democratic system in the country.
This vacuum has created scopes for the criminalisation of politics, spread of corruption and imposition of the total control of a political party allowing a section of rich people to make money in the name of politics, Saki added.
Describing the waning presence of politicians in the political process as dangerous, he said that it would create an opportunity for establishing a totalitarian rule and the rise of extremists in the political process.
Saki suggested that the constitutional democratic rights of the people should be established for overcoming the crisis.