Institutionalization of Democracy in the Political Parties in Bangladesh Does culture matter?
Submitted by: Md. Saidur Rahman
Master in Public Policy and Governance Program Department of General and Continuing Education
North South University, Bangladesh
This work is dedicated to those leaders of the political parties, who know how to do self-assessment, who are sidelined from the forefront as they want to stick to party ideals, and who consider that survival and strengthening of the parties depend on institutionalization of party rules and regulations.
Bangladesh shares its history of political development with the British and Pakistan era. The political parties in Indian sub-continent struggled for the rights, freedom and justice in the society. Westminster style parliamentary democracy was the driving force of the political parties, and the party leaders were mostly known for their values, principles, and devotion for the causes of society. Leaders were given high respect for their vision, charisma, courage, and sacrifices. Right after independence, Bangladesh has sad fate in terms of political development. The pioneering party Bangladesh Awami League omitted parliamentary democracy, brought changes to the Constitution, and the party itself became an autocratic organization. In 1978, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was formed, it became another major political party in Bangladesh politics. The following two decades after independence saw a lot of changes in state power, political institutions, party structure, party leadership, and subsequently a new party system developed, which is mostly known as undemocratic, unconstitutional, autocratic, and based on financial power, clientelism, and patrimonialism, and party chiefs became unchallenged. After 1991, these two parties come to power by turn through popular elections. Though they form government as coalition with other small political parties, but they remain as flag bearers. Unfortunately, the regimes have been marked by indiscriminate politicization of government, semi-autonomous and even autonomous offices and institutions, and by corruption and misrule, violations of state laws, which make the governance weak and undemocratic in practice. There have been academic studies on democracy and democratic practices in the different political institutions including that in political party. This study is focused not on finding the presence and practices of democracy in the party, rather it investigates into the causes which hinder the institutionalization of democracy in the political parties, here 2 major political parties in question – Awami League, and BNP. The researcher for this short research project has supposed the factors – power distance of society, patron-client relation and partrimonialialim are affecting institutionalization of democracy in the political parties. Under the study, interviews of the Union, Upazila and District and Metropolitan level party leaders and activists are carried out, and FGDs are conducted with the cross-sections of people. Though the feudal system has disappeared long back from the rural society of Bangladesh, but the society remains hierarchic, wherein liberal values are not practiced, and a section of elite people, now a days political actors define good or bad in the society. The same practices are reflected in the political parties. Patron-client relation in the parties remains an obstacle to systematize the party rules and mechanism, and it affects the party governance and the state governance as well. Patrimonialism has been another setback within the parties for which the central party leaders remain submissive, and demoralized. This also affects the whole party governance. The local party leaders frequently claim systematic practices, ie, democratic practices do not exist in the center, so the local units also don’t care for democracy in the party. This study also reviews...
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