Political Parties in Bangladesh: Challenges of Democratization

Author: Prof. Dr. Raunaq Jahan

Publisher: Prothoma Prokashan, Dhaka

Reviewer: Ghulam Muhammed Quader


The book tried to describe details of political party structures, ideologies, goals and activities as exist in Bangladesh. It also elaborated development of the same and its role in shaping existing political culture. She brought forward what she termed as ‘The Bangladesh Paradox’ of party and political development. She found political parties of Bangladesh played a vital role in mobilizing masses behind nationalist and the pro-democracy movements. But interestingly, they failed to demonstrate their pledge to practice democracy when electoral democracy was restored in 1991. She also observed the political developments that followed are puzzling and run counter to theories based on empirical evidence of Western Liberal Democracies in respect of many important parameters. Contrary to expectation the ultimate result so far is a perpetual sense of political crisis and instability. For this, she considered that the paradox is needed to be investigated and analyzed in order to pinpoint the areas of discord and find a probable solution.

In her own words, “These paradoxes of political party have not yet been fully explored by academic research. …..I undertook this research with the objective of generating some basic data about political parties which I hoped would facilitate an informed debate about their roles in the political development of Bangladesh. It is a follow up of my earlier study on the parliament of Bangladesh (Jahan and Amundsen 2012). That study indicated that deficits in the functioning of the parliament, and indeed democracy in Bangladesh, originate in the weakness and malfunctioning of political parties. ”

In the last portion of her conclusion, she put forward the suggested actions which started as follows, ” There is a growing awareness in Bangladesh that democracy can be sustained only when political parties make a credible commitment to promote democracy in the country and practice democracy within their own organization.”

The recommendations for moving in the path of democratization as put forward in brief are, i) ruling parties should refrain from using the state to promote their partisan interest; ii) political parties should stop the practice of boycotting the parliament when they are in the opposition; iii) all political parties, ruling as well as opposition, need to stop using violence to settle inter-party and intra- party conflicts; iv) there is an urgent need to separate the party organization and government; v) political parties in Bangladesh should prioritize the performance of their democratic roles e.g. Interest aggregation and articulation, along with political education and socialization.

Last but not the least she in her book emphasized the necessity to promote Internal Democracy within Parties.  There is probably no denying the fact about the genuine nature of the findings.  Now the pertinent question under the existing circumstance is who would implement the recommendations and how that could be made possible. What are the ways to persuade the political parties to make credible commitment to promote democracy in the country and practice democracy within their own organization? It has been mentioned earlier quoting from the book that there is a growing awareness that democracy can be made sustainable by doing the same. Is the awareness enough yet or can the same only impose the reform? After observing the reality on the ground it looks doubtful as no credible commitment is seen in this respect as yet. Does it mean practice of democracy is unsustainable in Bangladesh? These are few of the ‘Challenges of Democratization’. It is felt, the intention of the writer is to stir similar ideas to be surfaced for in depth analysis. This book could become a source of information for that purpose.