Africa Asia Europe North America South America Oceania
You are here: Home > Asia > Bangladesh

Bangladesh Politics

State and politics

Bangladesh, according to the 1972 Constitution, is a republic based on parliamentary democracy, with Bengali as the official language. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how BD can stand for Bangladesh. The Constitution laid down four basic principles: nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism. These statutes reflect the need to distinguish the national identity from the former mother country of Pakistan.

Political System of Bangladesh

The language issue had been one of the major stumbling blocks in the relationship with Pakistan, which introduced Urdu as a national language. Another source of inspiration was political thinking that gained entry into the Third World in the 1970s. Thus, the term socialism did not primarily refer to a state-directed economic system, but rather reflected a desire for economic equality and social justice. However, this principle has not had a broad impact and the same applies to the statute that women should participate in all parts of the nation's life.

Democracy was also put off early. Presidential rule and one-party system were already introduced in 1975 by the country's founder, Mujibur Rahman, and later military rule has ruled under various forms of state of emergency. One of the governing generals, Zia ur-Rahman, also abolished secularism as the basic principle, through a change in the constitution in 1977. However, at a later stage, secularism was again established.

The parliamentary democracy envisaged in the constitution in 1972 was only seriously introduced in 1991 (but has also subsequently been periodically put off).

GOVERNMENT

The President, who is elected by Parliament for five years, appoints the Prime Minister and the President of the Supreme Court and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The prime minister exercises executive power and has a side council (government).

Parliament (Jatiyo Shangsad) is elected every five years and consists of a chamber of 300 elected members as well as a number of women in reserved seats, appointed by the parties that include Parliament. In 2011, the number of reserved seats was increased to 50. When Parliament dissolves ahead of an upcoming election, the executive power will be transferred to an expedition minister led by an unpolitical adviser (Chief Adviser) appointed by the president. It has as its primary task to assist the Election Commission in the conduct of the elections in peaceful and correct forms and shall primarily be a former chairman or member of the Supreme Court.

Policy

The dominant political parties are the Awami League, led by Hasina Wajed (Sheikh Hasina), the daughter of the country's founder Mujibur Rahman, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (GDP), led by Khaleda Zia, widow of the party's founder Zia ur-Rahman. Both Mujibur Rahman and Zia ur-Rahman fell victim to political murders and have status as martyrs and heroes of the liberation war. This legacy contributes to the person-centering that characterizes Bangladeshi politics, at the expense of its ideological content. Against this backdrop, however, some differences of opinion emerge: the Awami League generally represents a more leftist political line than GDP, which is closer to the conservative and Islamist forces.

The largest Islamist party is Jamaat-e Islami, which is represented throughout the Indian subcontinent. The party, which promotes Muslim unity and Islam as a state-carrying force, opposed both the creation of Pakistan in 1947 and Bangladesh's outbreak of this state formation in 1971.

Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina have been touring the post of prime minister since 1991, with the exception of the transitional governments that ruled the country between elections. In January 2007, however, a transitional government introduced a state of emergency under couped forms and both party leaders were arrested, accused of corruption. However, they were released and could stand in the election that was finally held in December 2008.

The Awami Federation won this election as did the 2014 and 2018 elections and Sheikh Hasina has been head of government since January 2009. Zia was sentenced in 2018 to two long prison sentences for corruption and was thus prevented from running in this year's elections.

Judiciary

The official justice system is based on British colonial legislation. However, this system is ineffective and long-term corrupt.

In the countryside an informal legal system is often applied, based on tradition and religious regulations and administered by village elders. Extreme interpretations of Muslim rules do not often lead to discrimination against women and their human rights being violated. However, official sharia courts do not exist in Bangladesh. The death penalty is applied and is relatively common.

In 2009, a special court was established, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), with the task of investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed during the civil war that led to the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. (See further History.)

Human Rights

Bangladesh's modern history has been characterized by war and political unrest both before and after independence in 1971 (see History). Natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes and the long periods of conflict have resulted in over 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

The working conditions in the country are many times difficult in both the internationally oriented clothing industry and the domestic construction industry. Many deaths occur due to lack of safety in the workplace. People also die from diseases that can be cured and prevented such as malnutrition, infections, malaria and TBC. In addition, many suffer from diseases related to extensive environmental degradation.

Child labor in the clothing industry has fallen sharply following pressure from international communities, but there is no general law prohibiting child labor. Trafficking in both children and women for sexual purposes is extensive and reports show that around 600,000 children are homeless.

Although Bangladesh has legislation to curb violence against women, it is a serious societal problem. Rape, harassment, domestic violence and other forms of domestic violence are common. Bangladesh is also reported to have the highest incidence of child marriage in the world. Old-fashioned customs and discriminatory family law put many women and girls in dependency in marriage.

Freedom of the press has deteriorated during the 2000s. In  Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, the country was ranked 146th out of 180 countries. It is common for journalists to practice self-censorship and harassment and arbitrary detention by journalists is a recurring problem. In 2017, a law was introduced that governs far-reaching regulation of freedom of expression in electronic media and has led to a large number of prisoners of journalists and bloggers. Liberal writers are also threatened by Islamist extremists and a number of them have been murdered in recent years.

Legal security is low in the country, especially for women, children and politically opposed. Assault against protesters is common. Abuses committed by the police, the army or by persons from the political and economic elite are rarely subject to judicial review and corruption is widespread in the judiciary.

Heads of State

Presidents

1972-75 Mujibur Rahman
1975-81 Zia ur-Rahman
1981-82 Abdus Sattar
1983-90 Hussain Muhammad Ershad
1990-91 Shahabuddin Ahmed *
1991-96 Abdur Rahman Biswas
1996-2001 Shahabuddin Ahmed
2001-02 AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury
2002-07 Iajuddin Ahmed
2007-09 Fakruddin Ahmed *
2009-13 Zillur Rahman
2013 Abdul Hamid

* Interim Board

Other Countries in Asia

Politics eZine Copyright 1999 - 2020 All Rights Reserved