Academic journal article South Asian Studies

The Caretaker Debate, 10th Jatiya Sangsad Elections and Recent Trends in Bangladesh Politics

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

The Caretaker Debate, 10th Jatiya Sangsad Elections and Recent Trends in Bangladesh Politics

Article excerpt


For quite some time, Bangladesh has been facing political uncertainty. In fact, it all started before the 10thJatiya Sangsad/parliamentary election held on January 05, 2014 when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), its alliance partners and many others wanted the election to be held under the NPCG and the ruling party, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), and its allies claimed the NPCG system constitutionally defunct. Thus, they stuck to the position that election will be held under the party government and the Election Commission (EC) will play its Constitutional role in conducting the election. Due to this difference, theregrew further distrust between the two major political parties -the BNP and the BAL. Now, time has come when many Bangladeshis wonder if it will be possible to bring about political stability or to hold any inclusive, participatory and credible election in Bangladesh in near future. This critical situation of Bangladesh politics has invited analysts to ponder upon the future stability of Bangladesh politics.

This study attempts to analyze the 15th Constitutional Amendment, the Caretaker Debate, and the 10th Parliamentary Election and its aftermath. Since these issues are very much related with each other and they have serious impact on Bangladesh politics, I have tried to show this by discussing the post-2014 election political scenario of Bangladesh which may give us a hint about the future of Bangladesh politics.

Genesis, Features, and Impact of the 15th Constitutional Amendment and Caretaker Debate:

Genesis of the NPCG

Bangladesh has always been in the state of continuous political ups and downs and the caretaker debate has been a significant issue in Bangladesh politics since the early 1980s. The free and fair Jatiya Sangsad/parliamentary elections in 1991(5th) Jatiya Sangsad/parliamentary elections) in Bangladesh under a caretaker government lent credence to the thesis that in many developing countries that are beset with endemic electoral irregularities, an NPCG can be useful in eradicating electoral irregularities, reestablishing public faith in the sanctity of electoral process, and ensuring acceptability of the election results even by the parties that fare badly in the contest (Hakim, 1993, p. 103). Such a caretaker government stays in power for a limited period of time until the Sangsad/parliamentary election is held and a new government is formed by the elected representatives. The chief responsibility of the caretaker government was to run the routine administrative jobs and take all necessary measures to hold a free and fair parliamentary election (Hakim, p. 10).

The issue of NPCG had come into prominence in Bangladesh in early 1994, particularly, after the alleged rigging by the BNP activistsin the Magura-2 byelection in March 1994. This Magura-2 by election brought the issue of holding the Jatiya Sangsad elections under NPCG to the forefront of political discourse. It, in fact, made the then main opposition party, the BAL, extremely hostile to the then BNP government (Ahmed, 2004, p. 20). Because of the allegation of the degree of rigging, the parliamentary opposition parties decided not to participate in any election under the then BNP government and raised the demand for holding elections under NPCG despite its extreme intransigence against the opposition demand for NPCG terming it unconstitutional, non representative, and dangerous. After a series of talks, violent agitation by the opposition, resignation of the opposition members from the Sangsad, the BNP government eventually capitulated and swallowed the bitter pill of the opposition and accepted the opposition demand. It even had to hold virtually the one-party sixth Sangsad election on 15th February 1996 to incorporate the provision of the election-time NPCG to conduct Jatiya Sangsad election through the 13th amendment to the constitution. According to its provisions, the President was given the sole authority to appoint preferably the last retiring Chief Justice among several options who is qualified to be appointed as an adviser as the Chief Adviser, a post equivalent to the post of Prime Minister. …

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