Bangladesh Government and Politics

The State

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Bangladesh Government and Politics


Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature.
The current head of government is Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the head of state is Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed. The National Assembly or The Jatiya Sangsad has 300 members elected for a five year term in single-seat constituencies.

Recent Events : New elections were held October 1, 2001 with BNP getting the highest number of votes. The leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Begum Khaleda Zia was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The previous parliamentary elections were held June 12, 1996, with the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina Wazed getting the largest number of seats. The previous universal elections were held in 1991 and was won by Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Political System : Bangladesh is a democracy with a parliamentary form of government. Its multi-party political system has a single chamber parliament, the Jatiya Sangsad, with a total of 330 members.
Democracy is one of the four principles of the state enunciated in the Constitution. The histary of democracy was, however not smooth in the country.
Following the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign country on March 26, 1971 a Constitution was presented to the nation within a short time. The Constitution provided for a multi-party parliamentary system. Under the Constitution the first parliamentary polls were held in 1973 and a government accountable to the Parliament was formed. But the government later changed the system of governance as well as the politics of the country. The parliamentary form of government was replaced by the Presidential form and the country was put under one-party rule. The natural growth of a political system suiting the needs of the soil and responding to the hopes and aspirations of the people was stunted and political institutions were designed to protect one-party rule.
The prospect of a durable and stable political system emerging on the basis of democratic principles was therefore blighted through the introduction of the one-party system, although the people of this land were traditionally imbued with the spirit of multi-party democracy and freedom as they had fought for democratic and political rights during the periods of domination, oppression and exploitation by the alien rulers. The relentless and protracted struggle of the people had finally broken the fetters of colonial subjugation.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which had introduced the one-party system in January 1975, was repealed through the Fifth Amendment in April 1979, while only the Presidential form of government was retained. The Fifth Amendment prepared the way for lifting of the first Martial Law while the Seventh Amendment helped lift the second Martial Law.

The State : The declaration, for independance by Sheik Mujibur Rahman, which came in the wake of a crackdown on the night of 25 March 1971 by the military junta of Pakistan, was followed by a bloody but glorious war that established the sovereign state called the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The nation won freedom after the long, tortuous struggle of the nine-month long War of Independence; victory came on December 16, 1971.
The Country's Constitution calls the state "a unitary, independent, sovereign Republic"
In the pursuit of growth, development and prosperity, government institutions have evolved in response to the changing needs of the nation. Among these institutions are presidency, a cabinet headed by a prime minister, a sovereign parliament overseeing the actions of the administration, and an independent judiciary.
After independence, the nation chose Westminster type parliamentary democracy. 3 years later, the then government brought about fundamental changes in the form of governance, replacing the parliamentary system by presidential one and introducing a one party rule.
Months later, on August 15, 1975, the nation. witnessed a political change-over which triggered a series of events leading to restoration of multi-party democracy. It was legislated by Parliament through the fifth amendment to the constitution on Apri16, 1979.
In less than 3 years, on March 24, 1982, the elected government was removed and Martial Law imposed. The next 9 years were a saga of continuous struggle against autocracy. On December 6, 1990, a popular upsurge toppled the autocratic administration, installing an interim administration which conducted general elections hailed as the most free and fair ever. A sovereign parliament - the Jatiya Sangsad-was elected for a 5-year term. It unanimously adopted the Twelfth Constitution Amendment Bill on August 6, 1991 for change-over to parliamentary system of government from the presidential system. The change-over to parliamentary system was approved in a referendum on September 15, 1991.
The Constitution of Bangladesh enunciates the basic principles and guideline of the country's foreign policy. Article 25 of the Consitution clearly states that
"The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and on the basis of those principles shall
(a) strive for the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament;
(b) uphold the right of every people freely to determine and build up its own social, economic and political system by ways and means of its own free choice; and
I (c) support oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against I
imperialism, colonialism or recialism.
The State shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity".
Bangladesh follows a forward-looking, positive and constructive foreign policy based on friendship with all and malice towards none. As an active member of the United Nations, the Non-aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Commonwealth and multifarious international agencies, Bangladesh pursues peace, stability and development in the world generally and in the South Asian region in particular. Imbued with this spirit Bangladesh pioneered the concept of SAARC, (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). ', The 7-member forum consisting of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is engaged in the promotion of the collective well-being of their peoples. At a time when the concepts of democracy, human rights and
international cooperation are on the ascendancy, Bangladesh remains firmly committed to the emerging faith in the prospect of peace, prosperity and balanced I development throughout the world. Restoration of democracy has strengthened this faith.
Bangladesh believes that balanced economic development of all countries of the world is a prerequisite for global peace and stability. Respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for law and the principles of the United Nations are enshrined in the country s Constitution. Eangladesh believes that in the new world order that is taking shape following the end of the Cold War, mutual respect between large and small states should be the only recognized norm. In order to ensure a world free from war and conflict, it is imperative that the sovereignty of small states be ensured. Bangladesh believes that international rule of law has a vital role to play in ensuring the security of small and weak states.
Relations with Islamic countries enjoy a special preference in Bangladesh. Feelings of solidarity with them are generated by ideological affinity and age-old ties of faith and culture. Popular sentiments also favour the growth of close relations with them. The strong wave of sympathy for Bosnian Muslims and the meetings, seminars and proccessions in their support underscore the point.
With the Western democracies, Bangladesh shares a belief in frm institutions. representative government, liberal social values and a free market economic system. Western aid continues to play a major role in the economic development of Bangladesh. It is particularly gratifying that inspite of competing demands for Western aid since the end of the Cold War and recession in many industrial nations, aid for Bangladesh has been maintained at a satisfactory level.
Bangladesh maintains solidarity with the Third World countries. It puts a high premium on maintaining friendly relations with its immediate neighbours.