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Democracy in Bangladesh
Mahmudul Karim Farsad
(Co-writers: Rakibul Hassan Suvro, Md. Monowarul Abedin Khan)
American International University- Bangladesh

Democracy is a continuous political process. Though Bangladesh has passed 35 years of its independence, it has failed to establish democracy as an institution.



First of all, I will discuss the concept framework of democracy. The main aim of this article is to inform the reader about the Democracy of Bangladesh. I will also discuss in briefly the prospects of Democracy in Bangladesh. The article is based on secondary sources of information like books, research report, web, and newspapers. 



1.0  What is Democracy?


The term democracy is derived from the Greek words, Demos and Kratos, which means the People and the Power. Basically democracy 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.


  • In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
  • Aristotle considered it as a perverted form of government.
  • Prof. Seeley says, “Democracy is a government in which every body has a share.”


At first democracy was established in England in the seventeenth century. Today democracy is seen in many countries like Japan, India, Australia, United States of America, Italy, Sweden, and Norway.


2.0  Forms of Democracy:


There are two types of democracy:


  • Direct Democracy
  • Indirect Democracy


                                 i.      Direct Democracy- People expresses their opinion directly.

                               ii.      Indirect Democracy- People expresses their opinion by their representatives.



3.0  Conditions for the success of Democracy


To make the democracy a success in any country the following conditions should be fulfilled-

                          i.            Sound System of Education: Where there is illiteracy it becomes difficult to make democracy successful because many qualities are needed to make democracy successful. The people should have the sense of understanding political problems. Education should be free and the rich and the poor should be given equal opportunities for their development. In short, Ideal citizens are preparing through education and without democracy it cannot become successful.


                              ii.            Enlightened Citizenship: People should have the knowledge of their rights and duties to make democracy successful. It is equally essential for the citizens to become conscious of their culture.


                            iii.            Fraternity: Democracy can become successful only in a peaceful atmosphere. So fraternity is another important condition of democracy.



4.0  Characteristics of Democracy


  1. Liberty: The main basis of democracy is liberty. The people enjoy maximum liberty because criticism of the people is not only tolerated in this system, but also encouraged.


  1. Equality: Special importance is laid on equality in democracy. There is no disparity among the people on the basis of class, religion and position of status.


  1. 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 impossible.


  1. Independence of Judiciary: In a democracy, it is responsibility of the judiciary to protect the fundamental rights of the people. Wherever judiciary is not free, the protection of fundamental rights is not possible.


  1. Welfare State: Democracy is a welfare state and in it special attention is paid to the welfare of the people as a whole and not to a particular class.



5.0  Democracy in Bangladesh


When we were researching about the Democracy of Bangladesh we were shocked to discover a new Bangladesh with devastating future of its Democracy. We have passed thirty-five years since independence but our achievements in the field of democracy and development are not remarkable. Although Bangladesh has achieved a high level of political unity and stability, there are still many problems in practicing the democracy.


5.1  Historical Background of Democracy in Bangladesh


The history of democracy in Bangladesh is not a pleasant one. The country experienced several struggles to establish democracy in real sense. Immediate after the liberation the first democratic government was established in 1972. Afterwards in 6th June of 1975 the then president Mujibur Rahman in an ordinance established a one party government system called Bakshal. It was a great blow of democracy in Bangladesh.


However, the system did not last long and the democracy got life once again. In 1978, president election was held. In that election different parties took part. It was a sign of democracy.


But unfortunately our democracy fell into trouble. In 1981, General Ershad captured the government and ordered for Marshal Law. But the people of Bangladesh did not accept him and he was forced to leave the power.


In 1991, democracy in Bangladesh started a new way. But the politician could not gain the confidence of the people. So, for the first time Caretaker Government system was introduced. It was because of confrontation of our two listing political parties called AL and BNP. Still the people of Bangladesh have been suffering a lot, for that confrontation.


Of being late, our politicians have realized the value of democracy. Now they want to reform their own parties. It is a good symptom for the democracy of Bangladesh.               




5.2  Present features of Bangladesh Democracy


For better understanding of our democracy we should know the present situation of our country. For the confrontation among the political parties we have to face various problems. Taking advantage of this situation, military leaders get involved to practice their own version of democracy. Among various features the most noticeable and important conditions may be identified as under:


           i.          Absence of democratic political culture: Bangladesh is lacking of democratic political culture. Democratic practices are not seen in our politics and society.


         ii.            Absence of the rule of law: Today it has become the part of our political culture that police took action against oppositions and turned a blind eye to the real perspective. It indicates the absence of the rule of law.


        iii.            Lack of political morality: The existence of Caretaker Government instead of political government to arrange national election is a sign of lack of morality in our politicians.  


       iv.            Absence of strong civil society: Bangladesh has failed to establish a strong civil society, which could put flesh on the skeleton of democracy.


         v.            Absence of strong political leadership: Bangladesh is lacking of strong patriotic leadership essential for leading the nation toward progress and stability.


       vi.            Ineffective political institution: Our political institutions are not strong and developed enough to render required services on way of democratization and political development.


      vii.            Corruption and terrorism: Corruption and terrorism are two terrible barriers to democratic development in our country. Transparency International has ranked 4th times Bangladesh as most corrupted nation of the world.


    viii.            Lack of tolerance and mutual respect: There is a lack of tolerance, mutual respect, trust and respect among our politicians and political parties. Compromise and consider is absent from our politics.



6.0  Prospects of Democracy in Bangladesh


In spite of numerous problems and obstacles in the run up of democracy in our country, there are many good signs also. Such as:-


1.      Homogeneous character of the people: The people of our country are almost homogeneous in their origin, socio-economic and political belief. Almost all the people are from Bengali origin and about 85 percent of our people are Muslims. Such homogeneous character of the people is a positive side for development.


2.      Provision for caretaker government: In spite of some blames of defeated parties, caretaker government has to be credited for holding a free and fare election.


3.      People’s eagerness for democracy: The presence of voters in polling centers was huge and their enthusiasm about election and politics both in 1996 and 2001 proved that people are eager to democracy.


4.      Peaceful transition of power: After completion of every five year term, the caretaker government peacefully transfers the power to an elected government.


5.      March toward two party systems: Although there are many political parties in Bangladesh, the result of recent poll visualize the march of nation toward a two party system.


6.      Response of civil society: Now a day’s civil society is very conscious about various issues and any anti public decision of the government. It is a good sign of democracy.


7.      Independence of press and media: Today all the press and media are enjoying the full independence except govt. Radio and TV. So we can say that it is another light of hope for democracy.


8.      Party campaign at the grass root level: Now a day's, Major Political Parties are giving importance to the grassroots level people to develop the socio-economic condition of our rural Bangladesh. This is a positive side of good democracy.


9.      Privatization: Bangladesh has a long experience of carrying the privatization programme. Privatization can ensure decision making for pure economic development.


10.  Role of NGO: A number of NGOs are working in Bangladesh. Most of the NGO’s target is to organize the rural people and increase awareness to develop their socio-economic conditions. Name of some prominent NGOs are Grameen Bank, BRAC, ASA, Proshika, CARE etc.


11.  Women Empowerment: Our political parties are fond of making room for women in their party politics. Women’s representation in party committees and other bodies is noticeable. The percentage of female parliamentarians is 2%.



7.0    Democracy Statistics of Bangladesh


                                       i.            The position of Bangladesh:*


·        In World Democracy Ranking is 138.

·        In Civil Liberty Ranking is 4.

·        In Press Freedom Ranking is 68.

·        In Corruption is 1 (TIB), 85 (*http://www.worldaudit.org)


                                      ii.      Support for Democracy: Bangladesh is supporting the democracy under 40%, where Arab Countries are supporting the democracy above 60%.




8.0    Suggested Policy Measures for Overcoming the Problems


To remove the difficulties and to institutionalize the democracy following measures should be taken immediately.


1.          Government can create a department, which will work as an all time supervisor against misadministration.


2.          Democracy within the party must be gradually strengthened so that leadership from the grassroots levels can be developed.   


3.          Judiciary should be separated from the executive. Separation will bring accountability in the Judicial Sector.


4.          Government should increase public awareness against corruption.


5.          Local Government Institutions should be set up for ensuring people’s participation in the development of the country.


6.          Family politics nature of leadership should be stop and the party constitution should be amended to allow change in the leadership after each particular term.


7.          Government Radio and TV should immediately be given autonomy.


8.          Our politicians should realize that they have responsibility to build up the nation and they should pay due respect to people’s will and expectations.






From the above discussion we can say that from very early of civilization democracy was discussed from various viewpoints and applied it various ways. The people of Bangladesh want to enjoy this form of government. Democracy of Bangladesh is still young and weak. There are however, a lot that has been achieved but the road ahead is still rough and rocky with the high levels of poverty, official corruption and human rights abuses. US assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Christina Rocca visited Bangladesh on 13 & 14 May 2005. When asked about the future of democracy in Bangladesh she said, "I wish a good future but I have no crystal ball"





1.      M.M. Awal Hossain, Democracy in Bangladesh: Problems & Prospects

2.      Dr. Dalem Ch. Bharma, Dr. M. Golam Rahman, Dr. Tasneem Siddiqui, Democracy Report for Bangladesh

3.      http://www.nationmaster.com

4.      http://www.globalpolitician.com

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