Democracy and Political Culture in Bangladesh.

Table of Content

Table of Index Introduction2 Democracy: Concept2 Basic Principles or Requisites of Democracy:3 1. Liberty:3 2. Equality:3 3. Fraternity:3 4. The people as ultimate source of sovereignty:3 5. Fundamental rights to the people:4 6. Independence of Judiciary:4 7. The people are considered as an end and State as the means in a democracy:4 Politics:4 Political Democracy:4 Objectives of the study:6 a) Broad objectives6 b) Specific objectives:6 Political Democracy in Bangladesh: An overview6 Bangladesh: a democracy in crisis8 Democracy vs. Corruption8 Security vs. economic progress9

Impunity vs. the rule of law10 Present features of Bangladesh Democracy:10 1) Lack of political morality:10 2) Absence of strong civil society10 3) Absence of strong political leadership:11 4) Confrontational politics11 5) Ineffective political institutions:11 6) Corruption and terrorism:11 7) Negativity/Double standard:11 Conclusion11 Bibliography:12 Introduction Democracy by definition means the government by people. A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

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That means that all the people should be able to have their say in one way another in everything that affects their lives. Bangladesh is a developing country of South Asia that emerged in the globe through a 24-year long struggle for self rule and finally got independence in 1971 after a 9-month long bloody war. The quest for representative government has been an important feature of the history of Bangladesh. The independence struggle of the eastern Bengali peoples against the British, partition from India in 1947, and secession from Pakistan in 1971 set the stage for the people of Bangladesh to create a democratic political system.

The Constitution, as it was initially promulgated in 1972, embodied the democratic yearnings of the long struggle for independence and guaranteed human rights and political freedoms within a system of checks and balances similar to those existing in the British and United States governments. But later events ended these hopes. Despite having a long history of struggle, the political development in post independent era did not entirely support the nation’s democratic practice. Democracy: Concept Democracy is by far the most challenging form of government – both for politicians and for the people.

The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means “rule by the (simple) people”. Democracy thus means power of the people. It is now regarded as a form of government in which the people rule themselves either directly or indirectly through their representatives. Definition of democracy, as a form of government, are various, But like many other definitions in political science, they differ in their content and application Democracy, according to the Greeks, is the Government in which people rule over themselves.

Aristotle considered it as a perverted form of government. Herodotus says, the democracy denotes that form of government in which in the ruling power of the state is largely vested in the members of the community as a whole. In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. According to Bryce, “Democracy is that form of government in which the ruling power of a state is legally vested, not in any particular class or classes but in the members of the community as a whole”.

Prof. Seeley says, “Democracy is a government in which every body has a share. ” According to Dicey, “Democracy is a form of government in which the governing body is a comparatively large function of the entire nation. One the other hand Gettell’s opinion, “Democracy is that form of government in which the mass of the population possesses the right to share in the exercise of sovereign power. Among the definitions of democracy given above, the definitions of Dicey, Bryce, Abraham Lincoln and Gettell are more important and popular.

In brief, we can say that democracy is that form of government in which the sovereign power of the state is in the hands of the people and people are the source of the state power and the people take part in the government directly or through their representatives. Lastly, we can say that democracy is the government of the majority and the majority safeguards the interests of the people. In this form of government, the interests of minorities are not ignored. Basic Principles or Requisites of Democracy: 1. Liberty: The main basis of democracy is liberty and equality.

The people enjoy maximum liberty and equality because criticism of the people is not only tolerated in this system, but it is also encouraged. In Great Britain, the government pays the leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister consults him in national emergency. For example, when south Rhodesia threatened to declare the freedom unilaterally and when later on it declared its freedom; the British Prime Minister consulted the leaders of the Conservative Party and Liberal Party. When Pakistan invaded India during August-September, 1965, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri consulted the leaders of Opposition parties.

The late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri conferred with the leaders of the Opposition Prime parties before leaving for Tashkant for talks with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan of January 5, 1966. In Monarchies, Dictatorships, Aristocracies and Oligarchies the people and the Opposition parties have no say in matters of national importance. 2. Equality: Special emphasis is laid on equality in democracy and there is no disparity among the people on the basis of caste, religion and position of status. Besides this, all are equal before law and there is no privileged class in UK .

It is essential to establish political and economic equality along with social equality. Thus, in order to establish political equality, all disparities on the basis of caste, religion, color and sex have been removed in India and Adult Franchise has been introduced in order to give opportunity to all the citizens to contest election to Provincial Assembly and Lok Sabha (Agarwal, 1991). Efforts have also been made to establish social and political equality in democracies like England, Japan, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, West Germany, the United States of America and Italy.

Politics and social equality is useless without economic equality. The Indian National Congress passed a resolution in its Bhubaneshwar Session in January 1964 to bring about socialism through democratic means. Sincere efforts are now being made to implement this resolution. 3. Fraternity: Democracy can become successful only in a peaceful atmosphere; otherwise democracy has to face many difficulties. For this purpose Jawaharlal Nehru placed an idea of Panch Sheel before the world in 1954.

Our government and many other democratic governments of the world are making efforts to promote world peace. India is the President of the Non-Aligned Movement and propagating this policy. 4. The people as ultimate source of sovereignty: In a democracy, people are the ultimate source of sovereignty, and the government derives its power from them. For this purpose elections take place in democracies at certain intervals. In India and England, General Elections take place after every five years and in U. S. A. after every four years. 5.

Fundamental rights to the people: In a democracy people are given fundamental rights because in the absence of these rights the development of an individual is not possible. Fundamental rights have been granted to the people in their Constitutions in India, Japan, U. S. A. , France and Italy. In England the rights and freedom of the people are protected through the Rule of Law, Charters, Acts of Parliament, and Judicial Decisions given from time to time. 6. Independence of Judiciary: In a democracy, it is responsibility of the judiciary to protect the fundamental rights of the people.

In our country the Supreme Court and the High Courts protect the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the people. Wherever judiciary is not free, the protection of fundamental rights is not possible. 7. The people are considered as an end and State as the means in a democracy: This is one of the main characteristics of democracy that individual is a mean and the state is an end. It means that the state makes use of the individual for its own interest. In a dictatorship no attention is paid to the freedom of the individual. Politics:

Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of a political unit. And to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy. Political Democracy: According to Dr. Tommy Skelton “Political democracy should be democracy without internal influence. No trade offs.

Say I am a representative and I want my bill to pass as law. I need several votes to do that. I go and offer other representatives my vote for their bills in exchange for theirs on mine. This is how the system works now. It has to work that way. Otherwise someone would figure out a way to “go behind closed doors” and get their bill passed anyway. Political Democracy should stand to the saying of Representation of the People By the People. The elected officials showed spend more time listening to what their constituents say and not to what their fellow representatives say.

Any time you let the office workers give themselves a raise, make the rules to govern themselves internally or create a hierarchy system of their on—we, as a people nation, have turned their reins of power over to the asylum keepers. ” Joseph Schumpeter’s now classical definition of competitive democracy is: “The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote. (1947:269) two points are worth noting. Firstly, this is a theory of political democracy. Secondly, it is a theory of democracy that focuses on the procedural (input) aspect of the political process. Dahl’s definition of democracy as an “elective polyarchy” complements and extends the Scumpeterian theory of democracy by incorporating an element of pluralism to it (Dahl 1971). This makes Dahl’s conception more participatory and inclusive. However, his approach also retains the procedural/ input framework.

Extending Dahl’s concept of polyarchy, Larry Diamond (1990b:2-3) defines democracy as a “system of government that meets three essential conditions: meaningful and extensive competition among individuals and groups (especially political parties) for all effective positions of government power, at regular intervals and excluding the use of force; a highly inclusive level of political participation in the selection of leaders and policies, at least through regular and fair elections, such that no major (adult) social group is excluded; and a level of civil and political liberties – freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to from and join organizations – sufficient to ensure the integrity of political competition and participation. ” Even in regard to the input aspect of democracy the Schumpeterian view is seriously flawed at least in three aspects, especially when the theory is applied to developing countries. Firstly, non-elected public officials make critical decisions that are largely outside the purview of elected officials. For example, much of economic policy, particularly the decisions of relatively independent central banks, fall into this category.

Secondly, the military frequently exercise power even when democratically elected governments exist. Thailand and Pakistan from Asia and Peru and Guatemala from Latin America are but four such examples. Third, although the government is elected, the majority can discriminate against the minority. The ethnic conflicts that we see in democratic countries such as Sri Lanka and India bear testimony to this. To rectify these shortcomings Schmitter and Karl (1991) have added three important qualifications to the Schumpeterian formulation of competitive theory of democracy. Firstly, citizens must be able to influence public policy between elections.

Secondly, properly elected governments must be able to exercise power without control by unelected-ed officials. Third, the polity must be self-governing. Sartori (1987a:152) makes the important point that the above formulations are Western conceptions of democracy that limit it to the input side (procedural element) of the political process and hence inadequate as a theory of democracy for developing countries. He notes that the state is a key actor in developing countries. Thus a theory of liberal democracy that stresses the limitation of the role of the state is not always relevant to these societies. What is required is a theory of democracy that incorporates the outcomes of the political process as a feed-back to the competitive input process.

The output side of democracy relates to elements such as political stability, protection of minority rights, and the ability to achieve economic progress with a reasonable degree of social equity. If the output of competitive democracy does not fulfil these minimum requirements, competitive democracy on the input side is not meaningful to those who are on the losing side, be it a minority, or any other group such as the urban or rural poor. From this point of view a model of political democracy that simply restricts its focus to civil and political rights would be inadequate. It will also have to include social and economic rights. Objectives of the study:

In this study two types of objectives are found, these are (a)Broad objectives and (b)Specific objectives (a) Broad objectives: We look at human rights, the system of government and civil society noting in particular the dynamic evolving nature of all three (b) Specific objectives: The principal objective of this report is to describe and analyze the process of democratization in the Third World. This is crucial in the context of the new strategy of the Agency that makes democracy a virtual precondition to receive assistance. The report begins by raising a series of questions on democracy that many individuals, but especially foreign assistance professionals, commonly raise.

They are anxious to see democratic forces in developing countries strengthened, but at the same time entertain some reservation about the wisdom of aid agencies getting involved in directly promoting democracy. Political Democracy in Bangladesh: An overview We have passed about thirty-four years since independence but our achievements in the spheres of democracy and development are not noteworthy. In Bangladesh every political leader or party, civil or military, popular or unpopular, big or small, in or out of power, talks about democratic incessantly. Even so the nation has failed to put it into practice. Parties voted into power to strengthen democracy have all failed to encourage its values. Taking advantage of this situation, military leaders intervened to practice their own version of democracy, which only exacerbated the crisis.

It is a hard truth that since independent and up to 1990 the nation only enjoyed democracy from 1973 general election, where Bangladesh Awami League (AL) – the party was at the leadership of liberation war, to formation of BAKSHAL, the one party governance system. There must be the debate that BAKSHAL was a justified political and governance system or not. Whether it was the demand of the time or not, but it is the fact that the system was not complying with the democratic governance. This governance was in existence for a very thin period of time. In August 15, 1975 mutineer killed Banghabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the nation, and from then military and semi-military rule began to rule gripping people’s will for a democratic practice. Such misrule continued till 1990. After the killing of national leaders on August 15 and Nov 3, 1975, clouds of uncertainty were looming over the country.

A series of mutiny in military and unrest in civil life was major concerns of that time. One liberation time sector commander Major General Zia ur Rahman emerged as the military and political leader of the country. Under martial law, General Zia became president and formed the political party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). In the 1979 parliament poll, BNP had absolute majority in parliament. In 1981, Zia ur Rahman was killed at a mutiny in Chittagong and in 1982, General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, came in to state power by ousting the then elected president Justice Abdus Sattar and proclaimed martial law. By the time Sheikh Hasina elected as the president of AL and Khaleda Zia took the leadership of BNP.

The democratic movement of 1990s against military rule was led by both the ladies that reached at the success on December 1990. The struggle for democracy of 90s of last century made the two major political parties i. e. AL and BNP, more capable in addressing peoples’ issues, of course made the two ladies as national-level pivotal leaders. The decades-long struggle for democracy made the people more conscious about rights and also made them loyal to the major political parties unconditionally that is a phenomenon blockage for social justice. But it is also should be mentioned that bad democracy always better than any other pattern of governance as there is no alternative of democracy where individuals are safe in terms of rights and livelihood.

In December 1990, military autocrat HM Ershad was ousted through a peoples’ upsurge, which made the people and political parties more confident about democratic governance and finally Bangladesh entered into the era of democracy. There might be differences of opinions on the quality of democracy. It is also a fact that as of a nation of South Asia, Bangladesh also had a democracy with feudal flavor. From 1991 to 2006 Bangladesh enjoyed democracy twice under Khaleda Zia led BNP and once under Sheikh Hasina led Awami League. Khaleda Zia took over first in 1991 just after the collapse of military autocracy and second in 2001, that time she was succeeding Sheikh Hasina who was the prime minister of the country from 1996 for five-year tenure.

Of course, we should say that those three tenures of democratically elected governments are the periods of democracy, may be the democracy was not adequate in all means; but there is a possibility of achieving better democratic system in terms of social justice and political development. Disruption of democratic practice is not expected, accepted and desired by anyone sane and the people of Bangladesh are also not the exception. But it is a cruel truth that, in 2007, the political scenario welcomed the disruption of democracy. Now, certainly, the question could be raised that who were the persons and which were the institutions and organizations liable for that unexpected disruption of democracy. As a matter of fact, the party in power, in last tenure, BNP, must share the major part. A military backed interim government came into state power on January 11, 2007.

This extra democratic interim government ran the state for two years. In that period of time, I would say, it was the disruption of democracy and obviously, politicians and state mechanism had the ability to avoid the disruption, if they want to. People are the phenomenon of the political development; those are only dream to a governance system where individuals would be honored. In this scenario, there are many happenings over the political canvas of the country. People, politicians, intellectuals, academics and development partners are keen to see a quick return of democracy in Bangladesh. Other words, Bangladesh is a country that involved in a continuous struggle for democracy.

Subsequent to setting up of an elected government in 2009 following a two years long extra democratic interim government that imposed state of emergency, it was expected to all that the nation is heading to enjoy political stability, economic prosperity and social justice. This expectation was being generated in the mind of people that they were convinced about the latest development of political culture, administrative behavior and pattern of government- bureaucracy relationship. Bangladesh: a democracy in crisis Democracy vs. Corruption Bangladesh has had a troubled political history since gaining independence in 1971 and is also beleaguered by poverty and natural environmental disasters. In particular, corruption is blighting its prospects for economic growth, undermining the rule of law and damaging the legitimacy of the political process. The term, corruption, is very familiar to us.

But the good news is that our country is one of those countries which have been able to radically improve their corruption situation. Is this enough? It is sad but true that we still find corruption at every level in our national, political and private life. And the most shocking thing is that corruption is becoming an acceptable norm to most of the people. People treat corruption as a normal matter. In broad terms, corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. It encompasses abuses by government officials such as embezzlement and nepotism, as well as abuses linking public and private actors such as bribery, extortion, influence peddling, and fraud. Corruption arises in both political and bureaucratic offices and can be petty or big, organized or unorganized.

Corruption has become a part of our culture and society– and not just the government. Measuring the extent to which ordinary citizens are willing to justify corrupt acts is a complementary effort to measuring perceptions about government corruption. It has been documented that corruption is negatively related to economic development and to the existence of democratic institutions. Corruption in the political arena has a very negative effect on national development. There are significant cross-national and cross-regional variations in corruption permissiveness, and attitudes toward corruption are indeed strongly and negatively related to democratic attitudes.

Corruption permissiveness is, in particular, strongly and negatively correlated with support for democracy and with interpersonal trust, both of them being important components of a democratic political culture. Many observers regard corruption as a growing threat to our democracy, while others take a more optimistic view, seeing the increase of corruption revelations as a sign that there is a crackdown on corrupt politicians and entrepreneurs. It is commonly observed that after adopting competitive elections and market liberalization (“democratization”) our country has experienced a rise in corruption. Such a correlation should not be surprising.

Incomplete democratization often creates scopes for corruption, while it dies not produce the elements of democracy that may enable those harmed by corruption to fight back . However, a question might arise: what comes first — democracy or corruption? Although the definitions of democracy vary in scope they generally include three basic concepts: competition, equality and the rule of law. Corruption undermines each of these concepts. Unfair advantage through corruption undermines competition. Corruption is used to make some people more equal than others. Unchecked corruption in society undermines the rule of law. But we, the people of Bangladesh, do not seem be concerned with the bad effect of corruption. We are not taking any responsibility.

Instead, what we are doing is accepting it and helping towards it by taking part in it. One thing we do very well is to pass the responsibility on others. It is very common to say that the system is corrupted, the government is corrupted and the officials are corrupted. But we will never agree that we are the ones who are helping this system, the government or the officials to be corrupted by accepting their wrongful acts. As long as we do not take the responsibility on us, corruption will continue in the society — in the country. And when we all will start questioning the system and stop acting according to the system, the corrupt system will break down.

It is high time for us to identify the right and the wrong and say a ‘BIG NO’ to all sorts of corruption. Security vs. economic progress This uncertain political climate has not prevented Bangladesh from progressing a long way from the newborn, war-torn state of 1971. The country is even doing better than other countries in the region at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations in 2000. The World Bank in Bangladesh states: “Bangladesh has made remarkable progress on several MDGs and is already on the verge of achieving the targets in gender parity. It also has a good chance of reaching other targets in areas such as under five mortality and consumption poverty. “

At the same time, Bangladesh’s enviable growth rate of around 5% for several years has resulted in increasing social inequality, visible both in Dhaka (where penniless beggars stand outside what is claimed to be the biggest shopping mall in Asia) and the countryside (where parts of northern Bangladesh are still subject to seasonal famines). This growth has not resulted in any increase in physical security for Bangladeshis; indeed it may have promoted increasing insecurity through a rise in criminality and impunity. The service sector generates as much as half of Bangladesh’s GDP, while two-thirds of the labour-force are still employed in the agricultural sector – where they have made the country self-sufficient in rice despite underinvestment. In this country of 140 million people, both agricultural and urban land is at a premium; disputes over possession and use are legion and are often resolved by force and intimidation rather than law. Impunity vs. he rule of law Corruption is not so much endemic as systemic in Bangladesh, which regularly is at or near the top of the Transparency International corruption index. The phenomenon is directly linked to criminality, violence and impunity. The social system in Bangladesh remains somewhat feudal and social and business relations are based on patronage. These relationships have assisted organized crime to capture many aspects of the state and governance, law enforcement and justice. It also pervades business practice. Mastans – organized-crime syndicates – run “protection rackets” throughout society through a complex system of payment and collection.

Even street beggars will be paying “protection”. Mastans have also developed relationships and linkages with high-level politicians, who benefit financially and offer political and judicial protection in return. Some mastans have become wholly or partly legitimate businesses; others have entered politics directly and each has their own coterie of goondas (enforcers or thugs). The lines between politics, business and organized crime are becoming increasingly blurred in Bangladesh. There are honest businessmen and politicians, but such people are often fairly isolated and powerless. In the prevailing atmosphere it is very difficult to remain totally unsullied by corruption and patronage.

Present features of Bangladesh Democracy: For better understanding of our democracy we should know the finding present situation of our country. Among various features the most noticeable and important conditions may be identified as under: 1) Lack of political morality: Our politicians lack political morality which is marked by special provision for caretaker government instead of political government to arrange national election. It is a sign of popular distrust on our politicians. However, the provision for caretaker government is positive for democracy enough to each our politicians about the lack of their political morality and trust on themselves. ) Absence of strong civil society: Bangladesh has failed to establish a strong civil society, which could ground the liberalism and put flesh on the skeleton of democracy. Even we are lacking a civil culture which structure the social space of civil society in public regarding ways, anchoring individual identify and conscience in shared norms of solidarity trust and reciprocity. Our intellectuals are merely the prop of ruling classes. 3) Absence of strong political leadership: Bangladesh is lacking of strong patriotic political leadership essential for leading the nation toward progress and stability. Our leaders do not hold image to unite the nation in a platform. Because they consider themselves as leader of there party not the nation as a whole. ) Confrontational politics: Politics in our country is confrontational in nature where there is no cooperation, trust and solidarity among political parties and groups. There is no census among political parties on issues of national interest. They oppose each other only for the sake of opposition. 5) Ineffective political institutions: Our political institutions are not strong and developed enough to render required services on way of democratization and 11 political developments. Our parliament does not work effectively due to continuous boycott by opposition and its role as a ground for deliberation proved to be ineffective. Our political parties are safe shelter of vested interests. Thus their role to institutionalize democracy is not only inadequate but also unacceptable. ) Corruption and terrorism: Corruption and terrorism are two terrible barriers to democratic development in our country. Al though the then govt. refused the claim, Transparency International has ranked 4th times Bangladesh as most corrupt nation of the world. Terrorism is not unconcerned to none of our citizens. Thus, greatest challenge before the nation is to uproot corruption and terrorism from our society. 7) Negativity/Double standard: Double standard attitude is a great barrier to democratic development as it discourages to accept others. Everything is just if it favors one’s own interest, otherwise it is wrong. A election is fair if the result is favorable otherwise it is unfair.

Such kind of attitude forces our politicians to stereotyped enmity and distrust. Conclusion At the end of the discussion it can be said that from very early of civilization democracy was discussed from various viewpoints and applied it various way. Today most of the people want to enjoy this form of government. The people of Bangladesh are not out of them. But Bangladesh has been facing various problems to institutionalize democracy since its independence. Yet it, prospects of democracy in Bangladesh today are not insignificant. I think the suggested policy measures given above would be helpful for the policy makers of the state for democratic development.

For this the media, civil society and socio-political organizations and institutions must play the pioneering role. So now we can say Bangladesh like most of the third world countries, has a twin challenge to face: institutionalization of a democratic order and at the same time attains a target rate of economic growth for development. So democracy and economic development has to develop in parallel. The level of poverty, illiteracy, starvation, disease and malnutrition that prevails among nearly eighty percent of the population certainly does not make it easy forany country or government to undertake such a challenge. Bibliography: Books: 1. Agarwal, R. C. 1991. Political Theory. New De4lhi: S. Chand & Company Ltd. 2. Ahmed, Moudud, 1995.

Democracy and the challenge of Development. Dhaka: UPL. 3. Halim, M. A. 1998. Constitution Constitutional Law and Politics: Bangladesh Perspective. Dhaka: Rico Printers. 4. Kapur, A. C. 1993. Principles of Political Science. New Delhi: S. Chand & Internet: Democracy Building, http://www. democracy-building. info/ Open Democracy, Bangladesh’s fraying democracy, http://www. opendemocracy. net/democracy-protest/bangladesh_3681. jsp Democracy in Bangladesh: Problems & Prospects, http://unpan1. un. org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/APCITY/UNPAN020003. pdf WIKIPEDIA,Democracy, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Democracy WIKIPEDIA,Bangladesh http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bangladesh

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