State of Governance Bangladesh 2013: Democracy, Party, and Politics

Since the very inception of the country, there have been concerns regarding the norms and practices of the political parties in Bangladesh and their impact on the country’s development and democracy. To understand the development of political institutions, in our seventh annual flagship report of its kind, the “State of Governance Bangladesh 2013: Democracy, Party, and Politics,” we investigated the practices of dominant political parties in Bangladesh. It was found that the practices of political parties in Bangladesh not only have severely constrained the establishment of modern, constitutional democracy, but they are also a threat to sustaining the success achieved through democracy so far.

Researchers: Kazi Niaz Ahmed; Marufa Akter; Syeda Salina Aziz; Faiz Ahmed Chowdhury; Rubayet Hamid; Dr Mirza M. Hassan; M. Shahidul Islam; Professor Niaz Ahmed Khan; Minhaj Mahmud; Sadiat Mannan; Sohela Nazneen; Muhammad Ashikur Rahman; Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman; Md. Harun-Or-Rashid; Jens Stanislawski; Sultan Mohammed Zakaria

Partners: International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Timeline: 2013

Status: Completed

Contact: Dr Mirza Hassan;



Democracy is a form of government in which people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. In modern times, democracy works by electing representatives from a political party. The practices of political parties mould and shape the democracy of the nation. Political parties, therefore, remain at the centre of almost all political discourse. In Bangladesh, the two major political parties are the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). There have been claims that democracy in Bangladesh is challenged by the practices of these political parties. Yet, rigorous research on the political parties and democratic institutions in Bangladesh to verify such claims have so far been severely limited.

This study is relevant to SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), particularly to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.


In this study, we applied both qualitative and quantitative methods. We collected our primary data from a survey conducted specifically for this study. For our secondary data, we relied on the information obtained from key informant interviews (KIIs). To draw conclusions on the internal democratic practices of the country’s main political parties, we constructed a Party Democracy Index (PDI). Intra-party democracy within these parties was explored by closely examining the principles and intentions stated in the party constitutions and studying the actual behaviour and operation in the field. Our analysis was further complemented by consultations with selected key stakeholders, such as journalists and relevant experts.

Findings and Recommendations

It was found that political parties’ tendency to control and dominate law enforcement agencies in their favour and to marginalise nonpartisan citizen’s representation at the local level cripples political development. We also found that the ruling party has a propensity to engage in political violence that surpasses that of the previous ruling party. Consequently, over the years political violence has increased at a constant rate. In our study, there appeared to be a significant number of legislators in power with legal and corruption charges. Evidence of the performance of parliament members raises questions about their expertise. The presence of women in the dominant political parties, we found, is abysmally low. This is mainly because women lack the financial resources to become political enforcers and are relegated to the lower levels in party hierarchies. This low participation of women also reflects a strong gender bias in our political structures. Moreover, we found a significant deviation between what the parties claim as their sources of finance and their actual practices. Hardly any contributions flow from the district committees to central party funds.

Given the current state of political parties in Bangladesh, civil society institutions should be empowered to play a stronger role to help achieve the full potential of citizenship, which can be a major deterrent to the practices that put political parties’ interests before those of the citizens.