Politics of Bangladesh
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politics and government of
Politics of Bangladesh takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The Constitution of Bangladesh was written in 1972 and has undergone sixteen amendments. The Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Bangladesh as "hybrid regime" in 2016.
- 1 Political parties and elections
- 2 Brief History of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh
- 3 Local governance
- 4 Dynasties in Bangladeshi Politics
- 5 Political issues
- 6 History
- 6.1 Initial resistance and the formation of Provisional Government
- 6.2 1972-1975: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
- 6.3 August–November 1975
- 6.4 1975-1981: Ziaur Rahman
- 6.5 1982-1990: Hussain Mohammed Ershad
- 6.6 Hasina-Khaleda rivalry
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Political parties and elections
The three major parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Awami League and Jatiya Party. BNP finds its allies among some Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh while the Awami League aligns itself traditionally with leftist and secularist parties. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era. Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and students have been elected to the Parliament.
Three radical Islamist parties, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkatul Jihad were banned in February 2005 on grounds of militancy and terrorism. Following the first series of bans, a series of bomb attacks took place in the country in August 2005. The evidence of staging these attacks by these extremist groups have been found in the investigation, and hundreds of suspected members were detained in numerous security operations in 2006, including the two chiefs of the JMB, Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, who were executed with other top leaders in March 2007, bringing the radical parties to an end.
The election was held on 7 December 1970. The total number of voters were 29,479,386. The number of casting votes was 17,005,163 (57.68%), the valid casting votes was 1,64,54,278.
|Serial||Political Party||Total Candidates||Seats||Votes||Percentage||Symbol|
|5||Pakistan Muslim League (Convention)||93||0||464,185||2.8%|
|6||Pakistan Muslim League (Kou)||50||0||274,453||1.6%|
|7||Pakistan Muslim League (Kayum)||65||0||175,822||1%|
|8||National Awami Party (Wali)||39||0||310,986||1.8%|
|Serial||Political Party||Total Candidates||Seats||Votes||Percentage||Symbol|
|5||Pakistan Muslim League (Convention)||0||1%|
|6||Pakistan Muslim League (Kou)||0||0.05%|
|7||Pakistan Muslim League (Kayum)||0||0.05%|
|8||National Awami Party (Wali)||1||0.9%|
|2||Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal||237||1||12,29,110||6.52%||Torch|
|3||National Awami Party (Mozaffar)||224||0||15,69,299||8.33%||Hut|
|4||National Awami Party (Bhasani)||169||0||10,02,771||3%||Sheaf of Paddy|
|5||Communist Party of Bangladesh||4||0||47,211||0.25%||Key|
|6||Communist Party of Bangladesh (L)||2||0||18,619||0.1%||Bullock Cart|
|7||Bangladesh Jatiyo League||8||1||62,354||0.33%||Plough|
|8||Banglar Communist Party||3||0||11,911||0.06%||Axe|
|1||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||298||207||79,34,236||41.16%||Sheaf of Paddy|
|4||Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal||240||8||9,31,851||4.84%||Torch|
|5||Bangladesh Muslim League and Islamic Democratic League||266||20||19,41,394||10.08%||Lantern (Hurricane)|
|6||National Awami Party (Mo)||89||1||4,32,514||2.25%||Hut|
|7||National Awami Party (Naser)||28||0||25,336||0.14%||Rose|
|8||National Awami Party (Nuru Jahid)||38||0||88,385||0.46%||Lamp|
|9||Communist Party of Bangladesh||11||0||75,455||0.39%||Key|
|10||United Peoples Party||70||0||1,70,955||0.89%||Bullock Cart|
|11||Bangladesh Jatiyo League||14||2||69,319||0.36%||Plough|
|12||Bangladesh Gono Front||46||2||1,15,622||0.60||Bicycle|
|13||Jatioybadi Gonotantrik Dal||29||0||27,259||0.14||Fish|
|14||Shramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal||2||0||4,954||0.02||Umbrella|
|15||Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal||20||1||74,771||0.39|
|16||Bangladesh Gonotantrik Andolon||16||0||7,738||0.04||Chair|
|17||Bangladesh Labour Party||18||1||34,259||0.17||Clock|
|18||Jatioy Janata Party||9||0||10,932||0.06||Mango|
|19||Bangladesh Jatioy Dal(Huda)||6||0||0||Date Tree|
|20||Bangladesh Gonotantrik Dal||5||0||3,564||0.01|
|21||Jatiyo Ekata Party||3||1||44,459||0.23||Inkpot|
|22||Peoples Democratic Party||3||0||5,703||0.02||Horse|
|23||Bangladesh Janat Mukti Party||3||0||3,363||0.01||Spade|
|24||Jatiotabadi Gonotantrik Chashi Dal||2||0||130||0.01||Elephant|
|25||United Republican Party||2||0||389||0.01||Pineaple|
|26||Bangladesh Gono Ajadi League||1||0||1,378||0.01||Aeroplane|
|27||Bangladesh Nejame Islami||1||0||1,575||0.01||Candle|
|28||Bangladesh Tati Samity||1||0||1,8340||0.01||Pitcher|
|29||National Republican Party||1||0||14,429||0.07||Cow|
|2||Bangladesh Awami League||256||76||74,62,157||26.15%||Boat|
|3||Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh||76||10||13,14,057||4.60%||Balance Scale|
|4||Communist Party of Bangladesh||9||5||2,59,728||0.91%|
|5||National Awami Party (Mozaffar)||10||2||3,68,979||1.29%|
|6||National Awami Party||5||3,68,979||1.29%|
|7||Bangladesh Krishok Shromik Awami League||6||3||1,91,107||0.67%|
|8||Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Rob)||4||7,25,303||2.54%|
|9||Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj)||14||3||2,48,705||2.54%|
|10||Bangladesh Muslim League||4||4,12,765||1.45%||Hariken|
|11||Bangladesh Workers Party||3||1,51,828||0.53%|
|2||Combined Opposition Party||269||19||32,63,340||12.63%|
|3||Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj)||25||3||3,09,666||1.20%|
|1||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||300||140||1,05,07,549||30.81%||Sheaf of Paddy|
|2||Bangladesh Awami League||264||88||1,02,59,866||30.08%||Boat|
|3||Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami||222||18||41,17,737||12.2%||Balance Scale|
|5||Jaker Party (JDP)||251||0||4,17,737||1.22%||Rose|
Following boycotts by the main opposition party Bangladesh Awami League, BNP won the uncontested elections. However, amidst protests, they were made to cave into Awami League's original demands, dissolve the parliament, and hold elections under a neutral caretaker government after the enactment of the 13th amendment.
|Bangladesh Nationalist Party||300||+160|
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
Bangladesh Awami League won the general elections for the first time since 1973 by forming a coalition government, since they fell 5 seats short of a majority.
|Bangladesh Awami League||15,882,792||37.4||146||New|
|Bangladesh Nationalist Party||14,255,986||33.6||116||-34|
|Islami Oikkya Jote||461,517||1.1||1||New|
|Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rab)||97,916||0.2||1||New|
|74 other parties||662,451||1.6||0||0|
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
BNP won two-third majority in the parliament and won the elections.
|Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Dal)||23,074,714||41.40||193|
|Bangladesh Awami League||22,310,276||40.02||62|
|Jatiya Party (Ershad)
|Jatiya Party (Naziur)||521,472||0.94||4|
|Islami Oikya Jote||312,868||0.56||2|
|Krishak Shramik Janata League||261,344||0.47||2|
|Jatiya Party (Manju)||243,617||0.44||1|
|Non-partisan and others||2,262,045||4.06||6|
|Total (turnout 74.9 %)||55,728,162||100.0||300|
|Source: Bangladesh Election Commission through Adam Carr and Daily Star|
Bangladesh Awami League won two-third majority in the parliament and won the elections.
|Grand Alliance||Bangladesh Awami League||33,887,451||49.0%||230||+168|
|Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal||429,773||0.6%||3||+2|
|Workers Party of Bangladesh||214,440||0.3%||2||+1|
|Liberal Democratic Party||161,372||0.2%||1||±0|
|Four Party Alliance||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||22,963,836||33.2%||30||–163|
|Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP||95,158||0.1%||1||–4|
|Islami Oikya Jote||-||-||-||-|
|Independents and others||3,366,858||4.9%||4||–2|
|Source: Electoral Commission of Bangladesh seat-wise tally Election commission homepage|
As a result of violence and the opposition boycott voter turnout was 22%. Results of 139 seats out of 147 were released, with the Awami League winning 105, the Jatiya Party winning 13, the Workers Party winning four, the JSD winning two and the Tarikat Federation and BNF winning one each. The remaining 8 constituencies election were suspended due to violence and re-election to be held. The newly elected MPs were sworn in on 9 January.
|Jatiya Party (Ershad)||5,167,698||11.31||34||+10|
|Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal||798,644||1.75||5||+2|
|Jatiya Party (Manju)||0.3||2||+2|
|Bangladesh Tarikat Federation||0.3||2||+2|
|Bangladesh Nationalist Front||0.3||1||+1|
|Sources: Parliament of Bangladesh, IFES|
Brief History of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh
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A caretaker government was first introduced in 1990 when three political alliances jointly made a demand for it. Following the forced resignation of General Ershad, the three alliances nominated then Chief Justice Shahbuddin Ahmed as the Chief Advisor. A Caretaker government is headed by a Chief Adviser who enjoys the same power as the regular prime minister of the country except defence matters. The Advisors function as Ministers. Since 1996, the Caretaker government has held the elections of 1996, 2001 and 2008. Although the first caretaker government was intended to help the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, this system was institutionalized in 1996 by the Sixth Parliament dominated by Bangladesh Nationalist Party, yielding to boycotting opposition pressure.
In Bangladesh, there was a Caretaker Government (CTG) for the period of 1990-91 with understanding of political parties. Later, there were also CTG formed within constitutional framework in 1996, 2001 and 2006 followed by 13th amendment to the constitution passed in the parliament. Besides, an extra-constitutional military-backed CTG was installed in 2007 which governed Bangladesh without legitimacy that ultimately handed over to elected political party following 29 December 2008 parliamentary election when they were failed to continue as pressured by international world. According to the provision (before abolishment)of CTG in the Bangladesh Constitution, there were 6 options to appoint Chief Advisor (CA). Last option of CA is the President. CTG had to hold election within 90 days and in 120 days power could be handed over to elected political party. Day to day affair or routine duty and holding parliamentary election are mandated responsibility of CTG. The military backed CTG was formed without constitutional provision, CA was appointed violating provision of constitution, performed all responsibilities of regular elected government and lasted for 2 years. Army chief used to attend the advisory council meetings and pressured cabinet to take decision as he wanted. Advisor to the President M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury (Mukhles Chowdhury) was ousted as he was against army move and President Iajuddin Ahmed had to run presidency at the gun point. Lt. Gen. Moeen upgraded army chief's rank to General and to maintain balance also other two forces chiefs accordingly. Moeen also made his one-year extension without lawful authority in absence of regular elected government. Senior Advisor and Minister of State Mukhles Chowdhury tried utmost, solved political problem and thereby brought rival political parties to the planned parliamentary elections of 22 January 2007. However, by cancelling H M Ershad's nomination Moeen staged a military coup on 11 January 2007. Former state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar was used for this purpose.
Dynasties in Bangladeshi Politics
Political dynasties have long been a feature of the Bangladesh political landscape since the country's independence in 1971. They are typically characterized as families that have established their political or economic dominance in a party, in national government or other positions of national political prominence. Members of such dynasties usually do not limit their involvement to strictly political activities, and have been found participating in business or culture-related activities. This idea of inherited wealth and connections discouraging future generations to work hard can also be attributed to dynastic politicians. Dynastic politicians have a significant advantage from the start of their political career They have a statistically higher probability, due to factors like popularity and incumbency advantage, to win elections when pitted against politicians with no such political networks. Dynastic politicians also have generally lower educational attainment, because of their reliance on dynastic connections rather than bureaucratic or academic competence for their position. Dynastic candidates, being almost exclusively from the upper classes, are naturally biased towards defending their own vested economic interests, which presents conflict of interest problems. Political dynasties also prevent challengers with potentially effective policy ideas from being able to take office, which limits the capacity for bureaucratic responsiveness and administrative effectiveness and adaptation to new ideas
The Bangladeshi politics have been dominated by the bitter rivalry between two Families, Ziaur Rahman's widow, Khaleda Zia, led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party since 1981 for almost 37 years, against the Bangladesh Awami League, led since 1981 by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's daughter Sheikh Hasina. Popularly known as the "Battling Begums"; The two women have inherited their party identifications from their family members and have ruled Bangladesh as prime ministers since 1991.
There has been a lot of debate regarding the effects political dynasties have on the political and economic status of Bangladeshi society. Despite the negative reaction of the populace towards political dynasties and the association between dynastic activities and corruption, there are no laws that restrict the presence of political dynasties in the Bangladesh.
Social issues in Bangladesh range from liberal inceptions such as women’s rights, religious liberty, religious freedom, modernity, industrialization to religious issues such as blasphemy laws, sharia legal system, religious conservatism and state religion. The two main parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League, both have contested against each other since the millennium over these issues.
Law and order
Initial resistance and the formation of Provisional Government
Bangladesh had been under the rule of Pakistan since 1947, and had since been struggling for independence. The situation escalated after the 1970 elections and the 7 March 1971 speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After a brutal Pakistani army crackdown on the local people of Bangladesh on 25 March 1971 under orders of Pakistan President Yahya Khan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Chief of Awami League and the leader of the liberation movement declared independence on 26 March 1971, which was broadcast from Chittagong radio station on 27 March, first by the then Awami League Secretary of Chittagong Mr Abdul Hannan and other Awami League leaders and then by Major Ziaur Rahman on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the evening of 27 March, thus starting the Bangladesh Liberation War. Captain Rafiq BU Commanding Officer of Chittagong East Pakistan Rifles revolted first and subsequently other commanding officers at different places: Major Shafiullah, Major Khaled Musharraf and Major Ziaur Rahman revolted with their forces. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistan Army in early hours of 26 March, immediately after he declared independence and was taken to West Pakistan, where he remained in jail until early January 1972.
Bangladesh's first government formed on 10 April 1971 and took the oath of office in Meherpur, Kushtia on 17 April 1971. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as the first President of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam was elected as the Vice President, and Tajuddin Ahmed was elected as the first Prime Minister. Other major cabinet members were Mr Kamruzzaman, Mr Monsur Ali and Khodokar Mustaq Ahmed, all senior Awami League leaders. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by virtue of his position as the President of Bangladesh became the Supreme Commander of the Liberation Army, while Colonel M.A.G. Osmani was appointed by the provisional government as the Commander-in- Chief of the liberation army. Subsequently, the provisional government formed its secretariat and designated top bureaucrats as chiefs of the divisions of the Secretariat. The Provisional Government later divided Bangladesh into eleven Sectors for conducting war efficiently and in an organized manner. This Government became the first legal political entity on behalf of the fighting people of Bangladesh and represented the people in the international arena. Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed started intergovernmental dialogue with the Indian Government immediately after the formation of the Provisional Government. Bangladesh achieved victory in the liberation war on 16 December 1971.
As this government was formed during the war of independence from Pakistan, its significance holds a distinction. Its temporary headquarters were soon set up at 8 Theatre Road in Calcutta, India.
1972-1975: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
On 8 January 1972 the leader of the Liberation War and Liberation movement Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan Jail and was sent to London. On Mujib's arrival in London, he was met by the Prime Minister of UK and other world leaders. Sheikh Mujib returned to Bangladesh on 10 January 1972, by a British Royal Air Force Aircraft. Mujib congratulated the Bengali Mukti Bahini (the Bangladesh Liberation Force) for succeeding in the war of liberation against Pakistan army. Mujib was placed at the helm of government, according to the election victory under the unified Pakistan government. In 1973 after the first Bangladesh elections, he continued his term in office with immense backing from India, and public popularity, but had great difficulty transforming this popular support into the political strength needed to function as head of government. The new constitution, which came into force in December 1972, created a strong executive prime minister, a largely ceremonial presidency, an independent judiciary, and a unicameral legislature on a modified Westminster model. The 1972 constitution adopted as state policy the Awami League's (AL) four basic principles of nationalism, secularism, socialism, and democracy. A key author of the constitution of Bangladesh was Dr Kamal Hossain, who has since been a major political figure of the country.
The first parliamentary elections held under the 1972 constitution were in March 1973, with the Awami League winning a massive majority. No other political party in Bangladesh's early years was able to duplicate or challenge the League's broad-based appeal, membership, or organizational strength. Mujib and his cabinet having no experience in governance nor administration, relied heavily on experienced civil servants and political factions of the Awami League, the new Bangladesh Government focused on relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the economy and society. Mujib nationalised the entire economy, banking and industrial sector. Economic conditions took a serious downturn. On top of that heavy corruption among his own party members, factions and senior leadership also added to the devastation and famine. The then U.S. Secretary of State termed Bangladesh a Bottomless Basket. Amid mass corruption and famine throughout 1974, in December 1974, Mujib decided that continuing economic deterioration and mounting civil disorder required strong measures. After proclaiming a state of emergency, Mujib used his parliamentary majority to win a constitutional amendment limiting the powers of the legislative and judicial branches, establishing an executive presidency, and instituting a one-party system, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), which all members of Parliament were obliged to join.
Despite promises, no sign of improvement in the economic situation surfaced. Implementation of promised political reforms was almost nil, and criticism of government policies became increasingly centered on Mujib. Serious disorientation in the armed services, disenchantment in society, detoriaration of law and order created a huge mistrust of Mujib and his government including the Awami League itself. The then chief of army staff K M Shafiullah and chief of air staff A.K. Khandker stood stunned and idle during this situation. In August 1975, Mujib, and most of his family, were assassinated by a small group of mid-level army officers. Mujib's daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, happened to be out of the country. A new government, headed by former Mujib associate Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, was formed.
Mujib's senior cabinet minister Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad formed a new government and immediately initiated a few critical changes in Mujib's policies and rules of business in government. However, within three months the first military coup took place in Bangladesh by senior members of the army, removing Mushtaq and replacing his administration. Armed forces personnel along with internal political and government forces fell into a chaotic dispute, resulting in a vacuum at the highest level of government.
1975-1981: Ziaur Rahman
Following Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad's removal, jail killings of arrested members of Mujib's cabinet, and assassination of Brigadier General Khaled Musharaf by a segment of army personnel, a very short lived revolution resulted in the emergence of arrested deputy Army Chief of Staff Major General Ziaur Rahman ("Zia"), who managed to take the lead and bring the whole nation out of a political quagmire. His first action was to communicate to the people through radio and television and bring order and calm to the nation. He pledged full support to the civilian government headed by President Chief Justice Sayem. Acting at Zia's behest, Sayem dissolved Parliament, and instituted state of emergency under martial law. Fresh elections were to be in 1977 under a multi party democracy with full freedom of the press.
Acting behind the scenes of the Martial Law Administration (MLA), Zia sought to invigorate government policy and administration. Lifting the ban on political parties from Mujib's one party BAKSAL rule, he sought to revitalize the demoralized bureaucracy, to begin new economic development programs, infrastructure buildup, a free press and to emphasize family planning. In November 1976, Zia became Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and assumed the presidency upon Sayem's retirement 5 months later, on 21 April 1977.
As President, Zia announced a 19-point program of economic reform and began dismantling the MLA. Keeping his promise to hold elections, Zia won a 5-year term in the June 1978 elections, with 76% of the vote. In November 1978, his government removed the remaining restrictions on political party activities in time for parliamentary elections in February 1979. These elections, which were contested by more than 30 parties, marked the culmination of Zia's transformation of Bangladesh's Government from the MLA to a democratically elected, constitutional one. The AL and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), founded by Zia, emerged as the two major parties. The constitution was again amended to provide for an executive prime minister appointed by the president, and responsible to a parliamentary majority. Zia invigiorated a strong foreign policy based on sovereignty and economic independence. He initiated many social programs to uplift the poor through honest hard work and education. During this period, Bangladesh's economy achieved fast economic and industrial growth. His greatest legacy on the people of Bangladesh was unity and self-dependence.
In May 1981, Zia was assassinated in Chittagong by dissident elements of the military. There was no coup or uprising attempted, and the major conspirators were never taken into custody or killed. In accordance with the constitution, Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar was sworn in as acting president. He immediately set out to continue Zia's policies and called for fresh elections. Due to President Zia's tremendous popularity Satter won as the BNP's candidate. President Sattar sought to follow the policies of his predecessor and retained essentially the same cabinet.
1982-1990: Hussain Mohammed Ershad
Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hussain Mohammed Ershad assumed power in the second full-fledged but bloodless coup on 24 March 1982. He removed the country's democratically elected president and suspended the constitution and declared martial law. He cited pervasive corruption, ineffectual government, and economic mismanagement for legitimising his action. The following year, Ershad assumed the presidency, retaining his positions as army chief and CMLA, first time in Bangladesh. During most of 1984, Ershad sought the opposition parties' participation in local elections under martial law. The opposition's refusal to participate, however, forced Ershad to abandon these plans. Ershad was capable of managing the Awami League through financial and political support. The Awami League's support gave him the strength and legitimacy to seek public support for his regime in a national referendum on his leadership in March 1985. He won overwhelmingly, although turnout was small. Two months later, Ershad held elections for local council chairmen. Pro-government candidates won a majority of the posts, setting in motion the President's ambitious decentralization program that Ziaur Rahman had initiated. Political life was finally liberalized in early 1986, and additional political rights, including the right to hold large public rallies, were restored. Additional support from Jamaati Islami at the same time gave Ershad's political vehicle for the transition from martial law some form of legitimacy and the political order of Ershad and his Jatiya Party was established.
Despite a boycott by the BNP, led Begum Khaleda Zia, parliamentary elections were held on schedule in 7 May 1986. The Jatiya Party won a modest majority of the 300 elected seats in the national assembly. The participation of the Awami League led by party chairman Sheikh Hasina Wazed—lent the elections some credibility, despite widespread charges of voting irregularities and ballot box theft.
Ershad resigned as Army Chief of Staff and retired from military service in preparation for the presidential elections, scheduled for October 1986. Protesting that martial law was still in effect, both the BNP refused to put up opposing candidates. The Awami League participated by breaking their open public promise. Ershad easily outdistanced the remaining candidates, taking 84% of the vote. Although Ershad's government claimed a turnout of more than 50%, opposition leaders of BNP, and much of the foreign press, estimated a far lower percentage and alleged voting irregularities.
Ershad continued his stated commitment to lift martial law. In November 1986, his government mustered the necessary two-thirds majority in the national assembly to amend the constitution and confirm the previous actions of the martial law regime. The President then lifted martial law, and the opposition party Awami League of Hasina Wazed took their elected seats in the national assembly.
In July 1987, however, after the government hastily pushed through a controversial legislative bill to include military representation on local administrative councils. Passage of the bill helped spark an opposition movement by Bangladesh Nationalist Party that quickly gathered momentum. The Awami League and Jamaat Islami. understanding their political gamble, gradually united with Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the first time. The government began to arrest scores of opposition activists under the country's Special Powers Act of 1974. Despite these arrests, opposition parties continued to organize protest marches and nationwide strikes. After declaring a state of emergency, Ershad dissolved Parliament and scheduled fresh elections for March 1988.
All major opposition parties refused government overtures to participate in these polls, maintaining that the government was illegal and incapable of holding free and fair elections. Despite the opposition boycott, the government proceeded. The ruling Jatiya Party won 251 of the 300 seats. The Parliament, while still regarded by the opposition as an illegitimate body, held its sessions as scheduled, and passed numerous bills, including, in June 1988, a constitutional amendment making Islam Bangladesh's state religion.
By 1989, the domestic political situation in the country seemed to have quieted. The local council elections were generally considered by international observers to have been less violent and more free and fair than previous elections. However, opposition to Ershad's rule began to regain momentum, escalating by the end of 1990 in frequent general strikes, increased student's campus protests, public rallies, and a general disintegration of law and order. This was popularly termed the 1990 Mass Uprising in Bangladesh.
On 6 December 1990, after 2 months of widespread civil unrest, Ershad offered his resignation. On 27 February 1991, an interim government oversaw what most observers widely believed to be the nation's most free and fair elections to date.
1991-1996: Khaleda Zia
The center-right BNP won a plurality of seats in the 1991 Bangladesh General Election and formed a coalition government with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, with Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, obtaining the post of Prime Minister. Only four parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1991 Parliament: The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia; the Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina; the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), led by Golam Azam; and the Jatiya Party (JP), led by acting chairman Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury while its founder, former President Ershad, served out a prison sentence on corruption charges. The electorate approved still more changes to the constitution, formally re-creating a parliamentary system and returning governing power to the office of the prime minister, as in Bangladesh's original 1972 constitution. In October 1991, members of Parliament elected a new head of state, President Abdur Rahman Biswas.
In March 1994, controversy over a parliamentary by-election, which the opposition claimed the government had rigged, led to an indefinite boycott of Parliament by the entire opposition. The opposition also began a program of repeated general strikes to press its demand that Khaleda Zia's government resign and a caretaker government supervise a general election. Efforts to mediate the dispute, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Secretariat, failed. After another attempt at a negotiated settlement failed narrowly in late December 1994, the opposition resigned en masse from Parliament. The opposition then continued a campaign of Marches, demonstrations, and strikes in an effort to force the government to resign. The year 1995 observed nearly 200 days of general strikes disrupting the countries normal activities. The opposition, including the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina, pledged to boycott national elections scheduled for 15 February 1996.
In February, Khaleda Zia was re-elected for the second term by a landslide in voting boycotted and denounced as unfair by the three main opposition parties. In March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the sitting Parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to allow a neutral caretaker government to assume power conduct new parliamentary elections; former Chief Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman was named Chief Advisor (a position equivalent to prime minister) in the interim government. New parliamentary elections were held in June 1996 and were won by the Awami League; party leader Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister.
1996-2001: Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina formed what she called a "Government of National Consensus" in June 1996, which included one minister from the Jatiya Party and another from the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, a very small leftist party. The Jatiya Party never entered into a formal coalition arrangement, and party president H.M. Ershad withdrew his support from the government in September 1997. Only three parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1996 Parliament: The Awami League, BNP, and Jatiya Party. Jatiya Party president, Ershad, was released from prison on bail in January 1997.
BNP staged a walkout from parliament in August 1997. The BNP returned to Parliament under another agreement in March 1998. In June 1999, the BNP and other opposition parties again began to abstain from attending Parliament. Opposition parties have staged an increasing number of nationwide general strikes, rising from 6 days of general strikes in 1997 to 27 days in 1999. A four-party opposition alliance formed at the beginning of 1999 announced that it would boycott parliamentary by-elections and local government elections unless the government took steps demanded by the opposition to ensure electoral fairness. The government did not take these steps, and the opposition has subsequently boycotted all elections, including municipal council elections in February 1999, several parliamentary by-elections, and the Chittagong city corporation elections in January 2000. The opposition demands that the Awami League government step down immediately to make way for a caretaker government to preside over parliamentary and local government. In March 2000, US President Bill Clinton became the first US President to visit Bangladesh. Hasina later stated that during the visit Clinton wanted to import gas from the Country, but she had to decline due to fear of scarcity of gas and for the welfare of the people as they were heavily dependent on gas.
2001-2006: Khaleda Zia
A Khaleda-led four-party alliance won two-thirds of total parliamentary seats, while Awami League won only 62 seats that represent the smallest opposition after 1991. Khaleda Zia won a second term in 2001. Her coalition included several Islamist parties. In the year 2004 the opposition party Awami League carried out various processions pressing various demands and claiming government incompetence on various issues. On 21 August 2004 a group of terrorists conducted vicious grenade attacks on a rally held by the opposition party Awami League including leader Sheikh Hasina. Prominent leaders including Ivy Rahman were killed in the attack, and Hasina herself sustained injuries to her ears. A total of 13 grenades were blasted and 24 people killed. The Awami League called for a nationwide hartal (general strikes) on 23 and 24 August 2004 following the incident. Begum Khaleda Zia, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh condemned the attacks, and also vowed a thorough probe to catch the culprits. But they provided misleading information. Only after the current government tenure ended a neutral probe formed and revealed that Tarique Rahman son of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia along with the then Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar masterminded the attack. But BNP has denied the allegation. The BNP government tenure expired in October 2006, and was followed by a period of widespread political crisis.
2006-2008: Caretaker Government: Fakhruddin Ahmed
Following the end of Khaleda Zia's government in late October 2006, there were protests and strikes over uncertainty about who would head the caretaker government (which was accused of BNP bias), held by Awami League, paralyzing the country and resulting in the death of at least 40 people in the following month in November 2006. An election was scheduled for the beginning of 2007, however it did not take place. Given the parties' failure to agree on a candidate For Chief Advisor, according to the constitution the position devolved to the President, Iajuddin Ahmed, serving since 2002. He took it on in addition to his regular responsibilities, which under the caretaker government included the Defense Ministry. Iajuddin Ahmed formed a government, appointing ten advisors to a council to act as ministers. He appointed his press spokesman, the journalist-editor turned politician M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, as his chief Presidential Advisor, with the status of Minister of State. Chowdhury had the responsibility to negotiate with the political parties to bring them to participation in the election. In January 2007, Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down as the head of the caretaker government, under pressure from the military. Fakhruddin Ahmed, former World Bank economist, was selected to replace him and with the commitment to rooting out corruption and preparing a better voter list. A State of Emergency was declared and a massive campaign to crack down on corruption was undertaken. By July 2007 some 200,000 people had been arrested. The government said it would hold elections before the end of 2008.
In April 2007, Ahmed's military backed administration attempted to reform the political parties by exiling Hasina and Zia, but they backed down amid domestic and international protestations. Hasina, who had been visiting her children in the US, was allowed to return but she had to face serious charges, including involvement in the assassination of four political rivals. In July, she was taken into custody after two businessmen testified that she had extorted ৳80 million (US$1.16 million) from them. This provoked angry protests from her supporters; even her bitter rival Khaleda Zia, as well as six British MPs and MEPs, called for her release. Khaleda herself faced charges of tax evasion and was later arrested. Tarique Rahman was taken to custody for the 2004 grenade attacks and various corruption charges including money laundering, and was later sent on forced exile on 11 September 2008 and since then has not been able to return to the country. Both Hasina and Khaleda would be released from prison before the December 2008 general election.
2009-2014: Sheikh Hasina
The Awami League came to power by winning the vast majority of parliament seats in the election held on 29 December 2008, and Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the second time. Her cabinet took oath on 6 January 2009. HM Ershad was promised to be made President in exchange for support for Awami League, but despite supporting Awami League, this promise was not fulfilled and Zillur Rahman became President. The first two years under this government was peaceful, but a debatable issue took place when the Awami League government enforced an existing law to reclaim the house where Khaleda Zia had lived for nearly 40 years for a nominal cost. Khaleda Zia moved to the house of her brother Sayeed Iskandar at Gulshan. In protest BNP would abstain from parliament. This period also observed tremendous economic growth.
Controversy erupted in 2011 when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the abolition of the care-taker government system, contradicting her own motives and views in the mid 90s when she had demanded that elections should be held under neutral care-taker governments. Hasina justified this by stating that a neutral care-taker government may abuse its power (referring to the care-taker government crisis in 2006-2008) and take unlawful and autocratic control of the country. At the same time, arrests and trials of members accused of war crimes of the political party Jamaat-e-Islami had begun. This caused major disagreements among the ruling Awami League with the chief opposition party BNP and its major ally Jamaat. In a bid to return to the 1972 Constitution, the government made several reforms to the constitution of Bangladesh in 2011, and readopted Secularism. In 2012 a coup attempt against Hasina by mid ranking army officers was stopped, with Bangladesh army being tipped off by Indian intelligence agency. Also in 2012, Bangladesh won a legal battle against Myanmar under international court regarding disputed sea territories, giving Bangladesh a tremendous advantage on the Oceanic areas.
The period 2012-2014 was marked by widespread political unrest and violence in the form of strikes, riots and acts of vandalism which led to massive property damages, economic losses and death of many ordinary citizens. Petrol bombs and cocktails were being used at their peaks for arson attacks. But the ruling party remained committed to their decision and compared the ongoing protests to acts of terrorism. Both the ruling party and the opposition received International criticism. The scheduled date of the 10th general election was 5 January 2014. The opposition party received several pleas by the ruling party to abandon their path of violence and join the election, but they repeatedly declined. Despite the crisis the controversial 5 January election was held (a few election centers were bombed by BNP-Jamaat supporters, voters faced harassment and some were even killed). with mass boycott from BNP and its major allies. Awami League had a landslide victory, and Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as Prime Minister for the third time on 9 January 2014, while Rowshan Ershad of the Jatiya Party became the new leader of the opposition, as Khaleda-led BNP boycotted the election. The ongoing BNP-Jamaat protests diluted after failing to stop the January 2014 election, and overthrow the ruling party, and by the end of March 2014, political stability was reached.
2014 – present: Sheikh Hasina
In the tenth general election, Sheikh Hasina won a controversial one-sided walkover election after her main rival Khaleda Zia and all other opposition parties boycotted the polls. Awami League once again took office on 9 January 2014. Over a 100 people were killed in the 2016 Union Parishad Election in violent clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters. In April 2017 Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a landmark visit to neighboring India and signed 22 new deals and MoUs with India taking the Indo-BD bilateral relationships to a new height. This also included a defense cooperation, originally proposed by India. BNP harshly criticized the move with Khaleda alleging the ruling party was selling Bangladesh to India and pointing the Government's failure to make the long-awaited Teesta deal. Awami League dismissed the allegations, assuring that it was just a framework to strengthen regional ties with India. Also in 2017 Bangladesh was met with the 2017 Rohingya Refugee Crisis, in which the government received international praise for allowing over 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar into the country but also some domestic criticisms due to this being an additional burden to Bangladesh a country already overpopulated with 17 crore (170 million) people and having a small land.
Most of the post 2014 election period however saw political calm. Tensions between the BNP and Awami League reignited in 2018 after BNP once again started pressing demands for a caretaker government to observe the 11th general election. BNP also criticized Awami League's rising dependency on law enforcement agencies such as the police force and for holding back people's freedom of speech. On 8 February 2018 Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman as per court verdict, were jailed for 5 and 10 years respectively due to their involvement in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case. While Tarique was on exile, Khaleda would be imprisoned on old Dhaka Central Jail located in Nazimuddin Road. BNP totally rejected the verdict, alleging that it was Awami League's conspiracy to destroy their party and to keep them out of the next general election. In protest BNP held nationwide demonstrations, which were foiled by the well prepared police force across the nation, with a large number of BNP members also being arrested during clashes with the police. While Khaleda Zia was in jail, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and prominent leader leader Moudud Ahmed oversaw most of the party's activities. During this time the government passed the controversial "Digital Security Act 2018", under which any criticisms of the government over the internet, would be met with various degrees of prison terms.
On 22 September 2018, in a massive rally, the newly formed coalition party: Jatiya Oikya Prokriya (JOP), a platform led by Dr Kamal Hossain and Prof. Badruddoza Chowdhury, allied themselves with the main opposition party BNP, on condition BNP will no longer be alliance with Jamaat, and vowed joint movements to restore democracy. The Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader called the opposing BNP-JOP alliance weak and stated that the opposing alliance was not being viewed as a credible threat by the Government. On 10 October 2018, court verdict against the 2004 grenade attack was given. Top BNP leader Lutfuzzaman Babar was given the death penalty and Tariqe Rahman was given life term imprisonment. BNP rejected the verdict and carried out protests against it.
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