Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Advocate Yusuf Hossain Humayun, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman,Dr. Kamal Hossain,
Mr. Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, Dr. Binayak Sen and Dr. Minhaj Mahmud seen at the launching of SoG 2013
The annual flagship research report of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, titled “The State of Governance Bangladesh 2013: Democracy Party Politics”, was launched on 20 December 2014, at the BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium, Mohakhali, Dhaka, in a huge gathering of journalists, academicians and researchers, policy-makers, civil society members, politicians and concerned others.
Renowned jurist with international reputation and one of the composers of the Bangladesh Constitution Dr. Kamal Hossain, was the Chief Guest of the ceremony. Advocate Suranjit Sengupta MP, senior leader of ruling Bangladesh Awami League and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs; Advocate Yusuf Hossain Humayun, Advisory Council Member of Awami League; Mr. Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, Advisor to the Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and former Minister; attended the event as Guest Speakers. Dr. Binayak Sen, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, were the designated discussants on the report. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the Executive Director of BIGD presided over the programme.
Dr. Minhaj Mahmud, Head of Research of the Institute, shed lights on the key findings of the report, which shows that the progress in achieving three key elements — state building, democratic accountability and the rule of law — are constrained in Bangladesh by the overwhelming influence wielded by the two dominant political parties who have ruled the country for much of their existence, over state and non-state institutions.
‘Such near-complete dominance over the various state and non-state institutions by the political parties has led to a political system which may be described as partyarchy,’ the report added. The report said political violence increased at a constant rate of 4 per cent compared to the previous years. ‘The ruling parties’ endemic propensity to engage in political violence surpasses that of the opposition parties,’ he added.Quoting a report of Maplecroft, the study said Bangladesh was ranked 21st high risk country for political violence in the Conflict and Political Violence Index 2013. The report also said rudimentary democratic practices were absent at the grassroots level of the two main parties, which further diminished the prospects of democratic consolidation.
The report concluded that the norms and practices of the two dominant political parties had severely constrained the establishment of a modern and constitutional democracy, and their political conduct posed major risks to reversal of the gains achieved through the democratic process.
The report also stressed the need for an enlightened social contract or national compact in which narrow party interests would be subordinated to national interests for consolidating democracy and suggested an enlightened national dialogue on the future political directions.
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed said, the spectre of liberal fascism is haunting the country, and what exists here is electoral authoritarianism. He highlighted how bad governance sometimes becomes profitable pushing good governance to the back seat. “I do not think any political party alone will be able to do that. It is the structures that need to evolve to make good governance profitable,” he added.
Dr. Binayak Sen said, ineffective democracy could not march with the economic development. “If there is lack of good governance, development cannot take place. Since the country is developing, it can be said that good governance is prevailing.” He humbly made 3 requests. These are: to the government to initiate a dialogue, BNP to leave Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat to leave its leaders accused of 1971 war crimes.
Advocate Yusuf Hossain Humayun said, if there is to be any dialogue, the BNP has to come up with issues of national interests, not with any conditions.
Mr. Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said a representative government was a must for any country along with a multi-party democracy. “But a representative government is absent in the country. Space is required for democracy to sustain, but due to state-sponsored terrorism, no space was given to any party”, he added.
Dr. Kamal Hossain said dialogue should not only be held between the Awami League and the BNP but also among all the parties and concerned others. Accepting the basic principles of the Constitution, all should sit for talks. He further added, democracy must be brought out of the ‘partyarchy’ to make it ‘effective,’ and urged the political parties to sit together to work out a solution to the end.
Asserting that the country was passing through an abnormal time, speakers at the launching said election was not the last word for upholding democracy. Dialogue was a must to overcome any political crisis. However, as a prerequisite to that, effective democratic institutions should be set up, they opined.
The programme participants also said economic and political development should march together and political parties must do away with the culture of blame-game.
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, in his concluding remarks, said despite economic progress, Bangladesh's democratic development has been hampered. It is a matter of serious frustration for the public. He also added, though the democratic development is in crisis globally, but it doesn't mean Bangladesh has any scope for complacency, as “such underdevelopment”, poses serious risks for the future.
Experts of relevant field, eminent professionals and representatives from various academic and research institutions, government, NGOs, donor agencies, international organizations; civil society members, politicians and senior journalists attended the programme. There were huge interests of participating in the open discussion session of the event. At least ten participants made their comments, remarks and suggestions on issues of the report.