PRIME minister Sheikh Hasina made a surprising claim on Monday that the country is now following Westminster type of democracy. Moreover, she also claimed that it was working hard to strengthen all of its democratic institutions. According to an agency report carried by New Age on Wednesday, she made the claims while addressing a reception accorded by the chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh to the lawmakers, who got elected for the first time to the British parliament. Undoubtedly, the newly independent Bangladesh constitutionally promised in 1971to be a parliamentary democracy based on Westminster model. But in less than three years, the constitution was amended under the leadership of the country’s founding president, also the incumbent PM’s father, to pave the way for not only the return of presidential form of government but also the controversial one-party rule imposing a ban on the existence of any opposition party. After several political hiccups, including two military regimes and subsequent mass movement, particularly against the latest one led by Ershad, Bangladesh yet again returned to the parliamentary form of government in 1991. Despite various limitations, particularly political bickering between the two major parties of the ruling class — the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the parliamentary democracy started to take roots in Bangladesh. But what the nation witnesses now in the name of parliamentary democracy led by Sheikh Hasina is anything but a democracy. There was a ‘general election’ on January 5, 2014 that Sheikh Hasina used for retaining power, which was boycotted by all opposition political parties, let alone the BNP and its allies, on the one hand and marred by allegations of massive irregularities and violence on the other. Besides, 153 candidates, mostly backed by the Awami League, were declared winner in this election without a single vote being cast for them, while a party can form a government if it has 150-odd members on its side. Moreover, there is no opposition party in parliament today for many a leader of the Jatiya party, which claims to be the opposition, is holding ministerial positions in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet, an idea absolutely inconsistent with Westminster type of parliamentary democracy . Its chairman is the special envoy of the prime minister, with the status of minister. Meanwhile, instead of strengthening democratic institutions such as judiciary, election commission etc, which is crucial for laying the foundation of the Westminster-type democracy, the incumbents are alleged to have been weakening these institutions further. Under the circumstances, the prime minister’s claims in question may well be construed as efforts to mislead the people of the UK and beyond. She would be well advised to grasp the spirit of Westminster democracy and make fresh attempts to translate it into reality back home by arranging free and fair national polls to have a genuinely representative parliament in the first place.
Source: New Age