Before discussing about Bangladeshi political updates, let’s talk about Bangladesh Politics. Bangladesh is a country with a vibrant and diverse political landscape, where different parties and alliances compete for power and influence. The politics of Bangladesh are shaped by its history, culture, religion, economy and regional dynamics. In this article, we will provide an overview of the current political situation in Bangladesh, the main political parties and their ideologies, the recent elections and their outcomes, and the major challenges and opportunities facing the country.
Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system. The prime minister is the head of the government and the president is the head of the state. The parliament, or Jatiya Sangsad, is the supreme legislative body, consisting of 350 members, mostly elected by direct vote. The constitution, adopted in 1972 and amended several times, guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for the citizens.
The Major Political Parties
The two main political parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). They have alternated in power since 1991, when democracy was restored after a period of military rule. Both parties claim to uphold the ideals of secularism, nationalism, and democracy, but they differ on their policies and ideologies.
• The AL is the oldest and largest political party in Bangladesh. It was founded in 1949 by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and its first president. The AL led the struggle for independence from Pakistan in 1971 and established a secular and socialist republic. The AL is currently led by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib, who has been the prime minister since 2009. The AL advocates for social justice, economic development, and regional cooperation.
• The BNP is the main opposition party in Bangladesh. It was founded in 1978 by Ziaur Rahman, a former army chief and president who came to power after a series of coups following Sheikh Mujib’s assassination in 1975. The BNP introduced a multi-party system and a market economy in Bangladesh. The BNP is currently led by Khaleda Zia, the widow of Ziaur Rahman, who has been the prime minister three times between 1991 and 2006. The BNP promotes nationalism, Islamic values, and pro-Western orientation.
The Current Political Situation
The current government of Bangladesh is led by the Grand Alliance, a coalition of 14 parties that formed in 2008 and consists of the Bangladesh Awami League (AL), the Jatiya Party (JP), the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), the Workers Party and nine other parties. The Grand Alliance won a landslide victory in the 2018 general election, securing 300 out of 350 seats in the parliament. The AL alone won 259 seats, making it the largest party in the history of Bangladesh. The leader of the AL and the Grand Alliance, Sheikh Hasina, became the prime minister for the fourth time.
The main opposition to the Grand Alliance is the Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), a coalition of five parties that formed in 2018 and consists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the Gano Forum, the Nagorik Oikya, the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (ASM) and the Krishak Sramik Janata League. The JOF won only eight seats in the 2018 election, while the BNP alone won only five seats. The leader of the BNP and the JOF, Khaleda Zia, was unable to participate in the election due to her imprisonment on corruption charges. The JOF rejected the election results and claimed that they were rigged and marred by violence and intimidation.
Apart from these two major coalitions, there are several other political parties in Bangladesh that have varying degrees of influence and representation. Some of them are:
• The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI), an Islamist party that was allied with the BNP until 2018 but was banned from contesting elections by the Supreme Court for violating the secular constitution.
• The Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP), a centrist party that split from the JP in 2014 and is led by Andaleeve Rahman Partho.
• The Bikalpadhara Bangladesh (BDB), a secular party that split from the BNP in 2004 and is led by former president A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury.
• The Bangladesh Tarikat Federation (BTF), a Sufi party that follows the Maizbhandari sect and is led by Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari.
The Main Political Parties and Their Ideologies
The two dominant political parties in Bangladesh are the AL and the BNP, which have alternated in power since 1991. Both parties claim to uphold the principles of democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism that are enshrined in the constitution of Bangladesh. However, they differ in their interpretation and implementation of these principles.
The AL is a center-left party that traces its roots to the independence movement of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. It advocates for Bengali nationalism, secularism, social democracy and regional cooperation. It is seen as more progressive and pro-India than its rival. The AL is led by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is considered as the founding father of Bangladesh.
The BNP is a center-right party that was founded in 1978 by Ziaur Rahman, a former army chief who became president after a series of coups following Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination in 1975.
The Recent Elections and Their Outcomes
The last general election in Bangladesh was held on 30 December 2018, to elect 300 directly-elected members of the Jatiya Sangsad, the unicameral parliament of Bangladesh. The election was contested by the Grand Alliance and the JOF, as well as several other parties and independent candidates. The election was marred by allegations of vote rigging, violence and suppression of opposition by the ruling party and its allies. According to political scientist Ali Riaz, the election was not free and fair.
The result was another landslide victory for the Grand Alliance, which won 288 out of 300 seats, while the JOF won only eight seats. The AL alone won 259 seats, making it the largest party in the history of Bangladesh. The leader of the AL and the Grand Alliance, Sheikh Hasina, became the prime minister for the fourth time. The JOF rejected the election results and claimed that they were rigged and marred by violence and intimidation. The international community expressed concern over the credibility and transparency of the election process.
The last presidential election in Bangladesh was held on 18 February 2018, to elect the head of state of Bangladesh. The president is elected indirectly by an electoral college consisting of members of parliament and local councils. The president serves a five-year term and can be re-elected once. The incumbent president, Abdul Hamid, was nominated for the second time as the candidate by the ruling party. Hamid was declared president by the Election Commission as no other candidate submitted nomination papers to the commission. He was sworn in by the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, on 24 April 2018. With the result of the election, Hamid became the first incumbent president to be re-elected in the history of Bangladesh.
The Major Challenges and Opportunities Facing Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country with many challenges and opportunities in its political, economic and social spheres. Some of the major challenges facing Bangladesh are:
• The COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the health and livelihoods of millions of people in Bangladesh. As of May 2021, Bangladesh has reported over 780,000 cases and over 12,000 deaths due to COVID-19(adb.org). The government has imposed lockdowns and restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, but also faced criticism for its handling of the crisis(adb.org).
• The Rohingya refugee crisis, which has resulted in over one million Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh since 2017 due to persecution and violence by the Myanmar military. Bangladesh has provided humanitarian assistance and shelter to the refugees, but also faced challenges in managing their security, health and integration(adb.org).
• The political polarization and instability, which have been exacerbated by the disputed 2018 election and the crackdown on dissent by the government. The opposition parties have accused the government of authoritarianism, corruption and human rights violations, while the government has accused them of terrorism, sabotage and foreign interference(adb.org).
• The environmental degradation and climate change, which have posed serious threats to Bangladesh’s natural resources, biodiversity and livelihoods. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, cyclones, floods, droughts and salinity intrusion(adb.org). The government has taken various measures to adapt to and mitigate these effects, such as building coastal embankments, promoting renewable energy sources and participating in international agreements(adb.org).
Some of the major opportunities facing Bangladesh are:
• The economic growth and development, which have been remarkable in recent decades. Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate has averaged over 6% per year since 2009, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Bangladesh has also made significant progress in reducing poverty, improving human development indicators and diversifying its exports. The main drivers of growth have been the textile industry, remittances from overseas workers, agriculture and services.
• The demographic dividend and human capital, which have been a source of potential for Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a large and young population, with a median age of about 28 years. This provides an opportunity for harnessing the productive potential of the labor force and increasing savings and investment. However, this also requires creating more jobs, improving education and skills development, enhancing health care and social protection and ensuring gender equality.
• The regional cooperation and integration, which have been a platform for enhancing Bangladesh’s connectivity and trade with its neighbors. Bangladesh is a member of various regional organizations, such as SAARC , BIMSTEC , BCIM , BBIN , D-8 , ACD , OIC , CICA , NAM , Commonwealth , UN , WTO , AIIB , IMF , World Bank , ADB , etc. Bangladesh has also signed bilateral agreements with several countries on trade, investment, transit, energy and security issues. These initiatives have helped to improve Bangladesh’s access to markets, resources and technology.
Bangladesh is a country with a rich and diverse political history that has shaped its current situation. The country faces many challenges but also has many opportunities in its quest for democracy, development and regional integration. The political system of Bangladesh is based on a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the prime minister is the head of government and the president is the head of state. The parliament is the unicameral legislature that elects both the president and the prime minister. The main political parties are the AL and the BNP, which have alternated in power since 1991. However, the political landscape has been marred by violence, corruption, polarization and authoritarian tendencies. The last general election in 2018 was widely criticized for being unfair and rigged in favor of the ruling party. The last presidential election in 2018 was uncontested and resulted in the re-election of the incumbent president. The country needs to restore trust and confidence in its democratic institutions and processes, as well as to ensure respect for human rights, rule of law and civil society. Bangladesh has also achieved remarkable economic growth and social progress in recent decades, becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and making significant strides in reducing poverty, improving human development indicators and diversifying its exports. The main drivers of growth have been the textile industry, remittances from overseas workers, agriculture and services. However, the country also faces many challenges in sustaining and enhancing its economic performance, such as addressing inequality, improving governance, enhancing infrastructure, promoting innovation and diversification, and coping with environmental degradation and climate change. The country has a large and young population that can be a source of potential for harnessing the productive potential of the labor force and increasing savings and investment. However, this also requires creating more jobs, improving education and skills development, enhancing health care and social protection and ensuring gender equality. Bangladesh has also been actively involved in regional cooperation and integration with its neighbors, especially through various regional organizations such as SAARC , BIMSTEC , BCIM , BBIN , D-8 , ACD , OIC , CICA , NAM , Commonwealth , UN , WTO , AIIB , IMF , World Bank , ADB , etc. Bangladesh has also signed bilateral agreements with several countries on trade, investment, transit, energy and security issues. These initiatives have helped to improve Bangladesh’s access to markets, resources and technology.
Bangladesh is a country with a complex and dynamic political economy that offers both challenges and opportunities for its people. The country needs to overcome its political impasse and strengthen its democratic institutions and processes to ensure stability and accountability. The country also needs to continue its economic transformation and social development to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. The country also needs to enhance its regional cooperation and integration to leverage its strategic location and potential. Bangladesh has the potential to become a model of democracy, development and regional integration for South Asia and beyond.
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