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Politics of Bangladesh

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Title: Politics of Bangladesh  
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Subject: Bangladesh, President of Bangladesh, Administrative geography of Bangladesh, Constitution of Bangladesh, Districts of Bangladesh
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Politics of Bangladesh

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Politics of Bangladesh takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The Constitution of Bangladesh was written in 1972 and has undergone fifteen amendments.[1]


  • Political parties and elections 1
    • General Election, 1970 1.1
      • National Council Election, 1970 1.1.1
      • Provincial Council Election, 1970 1.1.2
    • First General Election, 1973 1.2
    • Second General Election, 1979 1.3
    • Third General Election, 1986 1.4
    • Fourth General Election, 1988 1.5
    • Fifth General Election, 1991 1.6
    • Sixth General Election, 1996 1.7
    • Seventh General Election, 1996 1.8
      • Results 1.8.1
    • Eighth General Election, 2001 1.9
    • Ninth General Election, 2008 1.10
  • Brief History of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh 2
  • History 3
    • Initial Resistances and the Formation of Provisional Government 3.1
    • 1972-1975: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 3.2
    • 1975 August-1975 November 3.3
    • 1975-1981: Ziaur Rahman 3.4
    • 1982-1990: Hussain Mohammed Ershad 3.5
    • Hasina-Khaleda rivalry 3.6
      • 1991-1996: Khaleda Zia 3.6.1
      • 1996-2001: Sheikh Hasina 3.6.2
      • 2001-2006: Khaleda Zia 3.6.3
      • 2006-2008: caretaker government 3.6.4
      • 2009-2013: Sheikh Hasina 3.6.5
      • 2014-Present: Sheikh Hasina 3.6.6
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Political parties and elections

The three major parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Awami League and Jatiya Party. BNP finds its allies among some Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh while the Awami League aligns itself traditionally with leftist and secularist parties. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era. Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and students have been elected to the Parliament.

Three radical Islamist parties, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkatul Jihad were banned in February 2005 on grounds of militancy and terrorism.[2] Following the first series of bans, a series of bomb attacks took place in the country. The evidence of staging these attacks by these extremist groups have been found in the investigation, and hundreds of suspected members have been detained in numerous security operations, including the head of those two parties in 2006. The first recorded case of a suicide bomb attack in Bangladesh took place in November 2005..

Extremist groups Shahadat-e-al-Hikma Bangladesh and Hizb-ut-Tahrir Bangladesh were banned on 22 October 2009 by the government, as the group was trying to destabilize the country by stoking the army after the Bangladesh Rifles revolt.

General Election, 1970

National Council Election, 1970

The election was held on 7 December 1970. The total number of voters were 29,479,386. The number of casting votes was 17,005,163 (57.68%), the valid casting votes was 1,64,54,278.[3]

The summary of the National Council Election, 1970
Serial Political Party Total Candidates Seats Votes Percentage Symbol
1 Awami League 162 160 1,23,38,921 74.9% Boat
2 PPP 79 1 4,83,571 2.9%
3 Nijame Islami 49 0 0 0%
4 Jamaat-e-Islami 70 0 9,91,908 6%
5 Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) 93 0 4,64,185 2.8%
6 Pakistan Muslim League (Kou) 50 0 2,74,453 1.6%
7 Pakistan Muslim League (Kayum) 65 0 1,75,822 1%
8 National Awami Party (Wali) 39 0 3,10,986 1.8%
9 Independent (politician) 114 1 5,61,083 3.4%

Provincial Council Election, 1970

The election was held on 17 December 1970. The percentage of casting votes was (57.69%), and the number of reserved women seat was 10.[4]

The summary of the Provincial Council Election, 1970
Serial Political Party Total Candidates Seats Votes Percentage Symbol
1 Awami League 300 288 89% Boat
2 PDP 2 1%
3 Nijame Islami 1
4 Jamaat-e-Islami 1 3%
5 Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) 0 1%
6 Pakistan Muslim League (Kou) 0 0.05%
7 Pakistan Muslim League (Kayum) 0 0.05%
8 National Awami Party (Wali) 1 0.9%
9 Independent (politician) 7 5%

First General Election, 1973

The election was held on 7 March 1973. Total number of voter=3,52,05,642; Cast votes=1,93,29,683 (54.9%); Valid casting votes=1,88,51,808 (53.54%); Reserved Women Seats=15.[5]
 Summary of the 07 March 1973 Bangladeshi Jatiyo Sangshad election
Serial Party Total Candidates Seats Votes % Symbol
1 Awami League 300 293 1,37,93,717 73.2% Boat
2 Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal 237 1 12,29,110 6.52% Torch
3 National Awami Party (Mozaffar) 224 0 15,69,299 8.33% Hut
4 National Awami Party (Bhasani) 169 0 10,02,771 3% Sheaf of Paddy
5 Communist Party of Bangladesh 4 0 47,211 0.25% Key
6 Communist Party of Bangladesh (L) 2 0 18,619 0.1% Bullock Cart
7 Bangladesh Jatiyo League 8 1 62,354 0.33% Plough
8 Banglar Communist Party 3 0 11,911 0.06% Axe

Second General Election, 1979

The election was held on 18 February,[6] 1979. Total number of voter=3,87,89,239; Cast votes=1,96,76,124 (50.94%); Valid casting votes=1,92,68,437 (49.67%); Reserved Women Seats=30.[7]
 Summary of the 18 February 1979 General Election election
Serial Party Total Candidates Seats Votes % Symbol
1 Bangladesh Nationalist Party 298 207 79,34,236 41.16% Sheaf of Paddy
2 Awami League(Malek) 295 39 47,34,277 24.55% Boat
3 Awami League(Mizan) 184 2 5,53,426 2.72% Ladder
4 Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal 240 8 9,31,851 4.84% Torch
5 Islamic Democratic League 266 20 19,41,394 10.08% Lantern (Hurricane)
6 National Awami Party (Mo) 89 1 4,32,514 2.25% Hut
7 National Awami Party (Naser) 28 0 25,336 0.14% Rose
8 National Awami Party (Nuru Jahid) 38 0 88,385 0.46% Lamp
9 Communist Party of Bangladesh 11 0 75,455 0.39% Key
10 United Peoples Party 70 0 1,70,955 0.89% Bullock Cart
11 Bangladesh Jatiyo League 14 2 69,319 0.36% Plough
12 Bangladesh Gono Front 46 2 1,15,622 0.60 Bicycle
13 Jatioybadi Gonotantrik Dal 29 0 27,259 0.14 Fish
14 Shramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal 2 0 4,954 0.02 Umbrella
15 Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal 20 1 74,771 0.39
16 Bangladesh Gonotantrik Andolon 16 0 7,738 0.04 Chair
17 Bangladesh Labour Party 18 1 34,259 0.17 Clock
18 Jatioy Janata Party 9 0 10,932 0.06 Mango
19 Bangladesh Jatioy Dal(Huda) 6 0 0 Date Tree
20 Bangladesh Gonotantrik Dal 5 0 3,564 0.01
21 Jatiyo Ekata Party 3 1 44,459 0.23 Inkpot
22 Peoples Democratic Party 3 0 5,703 0.02 Horse
23 Bangladesh Janat Mukti Party 3 0 3,363 0.01 Spade
24 Jatiotabadi Gonotantrik Chashi Dal 2 0 130 0.01 Elephant
25 United Republican Party 2 0 389 0.01 Pineaple
26 Bangladesh Gono Ajadi League 1 0 1,378 0.01 Aeroplane
27 Bangladesh Nejame Islami 1 0 1,575 0.01 Candle
28 Bangladesh Tati Samity 1 0 1,8340 0.01 Pitcher
29 National Republican Party 1 0 14,429 0.07 Cow
30 Independent 422 16 19,63,345 10.10%

Third General Election, 1986

The election was held on 7 May 1986. Total number of voter=4,78,76,979; Cast votes=2,89,03,889 (60.31%); Valid casting votes=-----; Reserved Women Seats=30.[8]
 Summary of the 07 May 1986 Bangladeshi Jatiyo Sangshad election
Serial Party Total Candidates Seats Votes % Symbol
1 Jatiya Party 299 251 1,76,80,133 68.44% Plough
2 Bangladesh Awami League 256 76 74,62,157 26.15% Boat
3 Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 76 10 13,14,057 4.60% Balance Scale
4 Communist Party of Bangladesh 9 5 2,59,728 0.91%
5 National Awami Party (Mozaffar) 10 2 3,68,979 1.29%
6 National Awami Party 5 3,68,979 1.29%
7 Bangladesh Krishok Shromik Awami League 6 3 1,91,107 0.67%
8 Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Rob) 4 7,25,303 2.54%
9 Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj) 14 3 2,48,705 2.54%
10 Muslim League 4 4,12,765 1.45%
11 Bangladesh Workers Party 3 1,51,828 0.53%
11 Independent 453 32 46,19,025 16.19%
12 Others 4,90,389 1.73%

Fourth General Election, 1988

The election was held on 3 March 1988. Total number of voter=4,98,63,829; Cast votes=2,88,73,540 (54.93%); Valid casting votes=2,85,26,650; Reserved Women Seats=30.[9]
 Summary of the 03 March 1988 Bangladeshi Jatiyo Sangshad election
Serial Party Total Candidates Seats Votes % Symbol
1 Jatiya Party 299 251 1,76,80,133 68.44% Plough
2 Combined Opposition Party 269 19 32,63,340 12.63%
3 Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (Siraj) 25 3 3,09,666 1.20%
4 Freedom Party 112 2 8,50,284 0.94% Axe
5 Others 214 25 34,87,457 13.50%

Fifth General Election, 1991

The election was held on 13 January 1991. Total number of voter=6,20,81,793; Cast votes=3,44,77,803 (55.45%); Valid casting votes=3,41,03,777; Reserved Women Seats=30.[10]
 Summary of the 27 February 1991 Bangladeshi Jatiyo Sangshad election
Serial Party Total Candidates Seats Votes % Symbol
1 Bangladesh Nationalist Party 300 140 1,05,07,549 30.81% Sheaf of Paddy
2 Bangladesh Awami League 264 88 1,02,59,866 30.08% Boat
3 Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami 222 18 41,17,737 12.2% Balance Scale
4 Jatiyo Party 272 35 40,63,537 11.92% Plough
5 Jaker Party (JDP) 251 0 4,17,737 1.22% Rose

Sixth General Election, 1996

Following boycotts by the main opposition party Bangladesh Awami League, BNP won the uncontested elections. However, amidst protests, they were made to cave into Awami League's original demands, dissolve the parliament, and hold elections under a neutral caretaker government after the enactment of the 13th amendment.

Seventh General Election, 1996

Bangladesh Awami League won the general elections for the first time since 1973 by forming a coalition government, since they fell 5 seats short of a majority.


Party Votes % Seats +/-
Bangladesh Awami League 15,882,792 37.4 146 New
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 14,255,986 33.6 116 -34
Jatiya Party 6,954,981 16.4 32 New
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 3,653,013 8.6 3 New
Islami Oikkya Jote 461,517 1.1 1 New
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rab) 97,916 0.2 1 New
74 other parties 662,451 1.6 0 0
Independents 449,618 1.1 1 -9
Invalid/blank votes 462,302 - - -
Total 42,880,576 100 300 0
Source: Nohlen et al.


Eighth General Election, 2001

BNP won two-third majority in the parliament and won the elections.
 Summary of the 1 October 2001 Bangladesh Jatiyo Sangshad election results
Parties Votes % Seats
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Dal) 23,074,714 41.40 193
Bangladesh Awami League 22,310,276 40.02 62
Jatiya Party (Ershad) 4,023,962 7.22 14
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 2,385,361 4.28 17
Jatiya Party (Naziur) 521,472 0.94 4
Islami Oikya Jote 312,868 0.56 2
Krishak Shramik Janata League 261,344 0.47 2
Jatiya Party (Manju) 243,617 0.44 1
Non-partisan and others 2,262,045 4.06 6
vacant   - 2
Total (turnout 74.9 %) 55,728,162 100.0 300
Rejected votes 441,871
Total votes 56,169,233
Registered voters 74,951,319
Source: Bangladesh Election Commission through Adam Carr and Daily Star

Ninth General Election, 2008

Bangladesh Awami League won two-third majority in the parliament and won the elections.
 Summary of the 9th Bangladeshi Jatiyo Sangshad election
Alliance Party Votes % Seats Change
Grand Alliance Bangladesh Awami League 33,887,451 49.0% 230 +168
Jatiya Party 4,867,377 7.0% 27 +16
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal 429,773 0.6% 3 +2
Workers Party of Bangladesh 214,440 0.3% 2 +1
Liberal Democratic Party 161,372 0.2% 1 ±0
Four Party Alliance Bangladesh Nationalist Party 22,963,836 33.2% 30 –163
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh 3,186,384 4.6% 2 –15
Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP 95,158 0.1% 1 –4
Islami Oikya Jote - - - -
Independents and others 3,366,858 4.9% 4 –2
Total 69,172,649 99.99% 300
Source: Electoral Commission of Bangladesh seat-wise tally Election commission homepage

Brief History of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh

A caretaker government was first introduced in 1990 when three political alliances jointly made a demand for it. Following the forced resignation of General Ershad, the three alliances nominated then Chief Justice Shahbuddin Ahmed as the Chief Advisor. A Caretaker government is headed by a Chief Adviser who enjoys the same power as the regular prime minister of the country except defence matters. The Advisors function as Ministers. Since 1996, the Caretaker government has held the elections of 1996, 2001 and 2008. Although the first caretaker government was intended to help the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, this system was institutionalized in 1996 by the Sixth Parliament dominated by Bangladesh Nationalist Party, yielding to boycotting opposition pressure.

In Bangladesh, there was a Caretaker Government (CTG) for the period of 1990-91 with understanding of political parties. Later, there were also CTG formed within constitutional framework in 1996, 2001 and 2006 followed by 13th amendment to the constitution passed in the parliament. Besides, an extra-constitutional military-backed CTG was installed in 2007 which governed Bangladesh without legitimacy that ultimately handed over to elected political party following 29 December 2008 parliamentary election when they were failed to continue as pressured by international world. According to the provision (before abolishment)of CTG in the Bangladesh Constitution, there were 6 options to appoint Chief Advisor (CA). Last option of CA is the President. CTG had to hold election within 90 days and in 120 days power could be handed over to elected political party. Day to day affair or routine duty and holding parliamentary election are mandated responsibility of CTG. The military backed CTG was formed without constitutional provision, CA was appointed violating provision of constitution, performed all responsibilities of regular elected government and lasted for 2 years. Army chief used to attend the advisory council meetings and pressured cabinet to take decision as he wanted. Advisor to the President M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury (Mukhles Chowdhury) was ousted as he was against army move and President Iajuddin Ahmed had to run presidency at the gun point. Lt. Gen. Moeen upgraded army chief's rank to General and to maintain balance also other two forces chiefs accordingly. Moeen also made his one-year extension without lawful authority in absence of regular elected government. Senior Advisor and Minister of State Mukhles Chowdhury tried utmost, solved political problem and thereby brought rival political parties to the planned parliamentary elections of 22 January 2002. However, by cancelling H M Ershad's nomination Moeen staged a military coup on 11 January 2007. Former state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar was used for this purpose.


Initial Resistances and the Formation of Provisional Government

Bangladesh's first government took oath of office in Meherpur, Kushtia on April 10, 1971, after a brutal five division Pakistani army crackdown on the local people of Bangladesh on March 25, 1971. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Chief of Awami League and the leader of the liberation movement declared independence on March 26, 1971, which was broadcast from Chittagong radio station on 27 March, first by the then Awami League Secretary of Chittagong Mr Abdul Hannan and other Awami League leaders and then by Major Ziaur Rahman on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the evening of 27 March. Captain Rafiq BU Commanding Officer of Chittagong East Pakistan Rifles revolted first and subsequently other commanding officers at different places: Major Shafiullah, Major Khaled Musharraf and Major Ziaur Rahman revolted with their forces. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistan Army in early hours of 26 March, immediately after he declared independence and was taken to West Pakistan, where he remained in jail till early January 1972.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as the first President of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam was elected as the Vice President, and Tajuddin Ahmend was elected as the first Prime Minister. Other major cabinet members were Mr Kamruzzaman, Mr Monsur Ali and Khodokar Mustaq Ahmed, all senior Awami League leaders. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by virtue of his position as the President of Bangladesh became the Supreme Commander of the Liberation Army, while Colonel M.A.G. Osmani was appointed by the provisional government as the Commander-in- Chief of the liberation army. Subsequently, the provisional government formed its secretariat and designated top bureaucrats as chiefs of the divisions of the Secretariat. The Provisional Government later divided Bangladesh into eleven Sectors for conducting war efficiently and in an organized manner. This Government became the first legal political entity on behalf of the fighting people of Bangladesh and represented the people in the international arena. Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed started intergovernmental dialogue with the Indian Government immediately after the formation of the Provisional Government.

As this government was formed during the war of independence from Pakistan, its significance holds a distinction. Its temporary headquarters were soon set up at 8 Theatre Road in Calcutta, India.

1972-1975: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

In early January 1972 the leader of the Liberation War and Liberation movement Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan Jail and was sent to London. On Mujib's arrival in London, he was met by the Prime Minister of UK and other world leaders. Sheikh Mujib returned to Bangladesh on January 10, 1972, by a British Royal Air Force Aircraft. Mujib was placed at the helm of government, according to the election victory under the unified Pakistan government. In 1973 after the first Bangladesh elections, he continued his term in office with immense backing from India, and public popularity, but had great difficulty transforming this popular support into the political strength needed to function as head of government. The new constitution, which came into force in December 1972, created a strong executive prime minister, a largely ceremonial presidency, an independent judiciary, and a unicameral legislature on a modified Westminster model. The 1972 constitution adopted as state policy the Awami League's (AL) four basic principles of nationalism, secularism, socialism, and democracy.

The first parliamentary elections held under the 1972 constitution were in March 1973, with the Awami League winning a massive majority. No other political party in Bangladesh's early years was able to duplicate or challenge the League's broad-based appeal, membership, or organizational strength. Mujib and his cabinet having no experience in governance nor administration, relied heavily on experienced civil servants and political factions of the Awami League, the new Bangladesh Government focused on relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the economy and society. Mujib nationalised the entire economy, banking and industrial sector. Economic conditions took a serious downturn. On top of that heavy corruption among his own party members, factions and senior leadership also added to the devastation and famine. The then U.S. Secretary of State termed Bangladesh a Bottomless Basket. In December 1974, Mujib decided that continuing economic deterioration and mounting civil disorder required strong measures. After proclaiming a state of emergency, Mujib used his parliamentary majority to win a constitutional amendment limiting the powers of the legislative and judicial branches, establishing an executive presidency, and instituting a one-party system, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), which all members of Parliament were obliged to join.

Despite promises, no sign of improvement in the economic situation surfaced. Implementation of promised political reforms was almost nil, and criticism of government policies became increasingly centered on Mujib. Serious disorientation in the armed services, disenchantment in society, detoriaration of law and order created a huge mistrust of Mujib and his government including the Awami League itself. The then chief of army staff K M Shafiullah and chief of air staff A.K. Khandker stood stunned and idle during this situation. In August 1975, Mujib, and most of his family, were assassinated by a small group of mid-level army officers. Mujib's daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, happened to be out of the country. A new government, headed by former Mujib associate Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, was formed.

1975 August-1975 November

Mujib's senior cabinet minister Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad formed a new government and immediately initiated a few critical changes in Mujib's policies and rules of business in government. However, within three months the first military coup took place in Bangladesh by senior members of the army, removing Mushtaq and replacing his administration. Armed forces personnel along with internal political and government forces fell into a chaotic dispute, resulting in a vacuum at the highest level of government.

1975-1981: Ziaur Rahman

Following Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad's removal, jail killings of arrested members of Mujib's cabinet, and assassination of Brigadier General Khaled Musharaf by a segment of army personnel, a very short lived revolution resulted in the emergence of arrested deputy Army Chief of Staff Major General Ziaur Rahman ("Zia"), who managed to take the lead and bring the whole nation out of a political quagmire. His first action was to communicate to the people through radio and television and bring order and calm to the nation. He pledged full support to the civilian government headed by President Chief Justice Sayem. Acting at Zia's behest, Sayem dissolved Parliament, and instituted state of emergency under martial law. Fresh elections were to be in 1977 under a multi party democracy with full freedom of the press.

Acting behind the scenes of the Martial Law Administration (MLA), Zia sought to invigorate government policy and administration. Lifting the ban on political parties from Mujib's one party BAKSAL rule, he sought to revitalize the demoralized bureaucracy, to begin new economic development programs, infrastructure buildup, a free press and to emphasize family planning. In November 1976, Zia became Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and assumed the presidency upon Sayem's retirement 5 months later, held national elections in 1978.

As President, Zia announced a 19-point program of economic reform and began dismantling the MLA. Keeping his promise to hold elections, Zia won a 5-year term in June 1978 elections, with 76% of the vote. In November 1978, his government removed the remaining restrictions on political party activities in time for parliamentary elections in February 1979. These elections, which were contested by more than 30 parties, marked the culmination of Zia's transformation of Bangladesh's Government from the MLA to a democratically elected, constitutional one. The AL and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), founded by Zia, emerged as the two major parties. The constitution was again amended to provide for an executive prime minister appointed by the president, and responsible to a parliamentary majority. Zia invigiorated a strong foreign policy based on sovereignty and economic independence. He initiated many social programs to uplift the poor through honest hard work and education. His greatest legacy on the people of Bangladesh was unity and self-dependence.

In May 1981, Zia was assassinated in Chittagong by dissident elements of the military. There was no coup or uprising attempted, and the major conspirators were never taken into custody or killed. In accordance with the constitution, Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar was sworn in as acting president. He immediately set out to continue Zia's policies and called for fresh elections. Due to President Zia's tremendous popularity Satter won as the BNP's candidate. President Sattar sought to follow the policies of his predecessor and retained essentially the same cabinet.

1982-1990: Hussain Mohammed Ershad

Hussein Muhammad Ershad

Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hussain Mohammed Ershad assumed power in the second, but, full-fledged bloodless coup in March 24, 1982 out of sheer hunger for power. He removed a perfectly free democratically elected president and suspended the constitution and declared martial law. He cited pervasive corruption, ineffectual government, and economic mismanagement for legitimising his action. The following year, Ershad assumed the presidency, retaining his positions as army chief and CMLA, first time in Bangladesh. During most of 1984, Ershad sought the opposition parties' participation in local elections under martial law. The opposition's refusal to participate, however, forced Ershad to abandon these plans. Ershad was capable of managing the Awami League through financial and political support. Awami Leagues support gave him strength and legitimacy to seek public support for his regime in a national referendum on his leadership in March 1985. He won overwhelmingly, although turnout was small. Two months later, Ershad held elections for local council chairmen. Pro-government candidates won a majority of the posts, setting in motion the President's ambitious decentralization program that Ziaur Rahman had initiated. Political life was finally liberalized in early 1986, and additional political rights, including the right to hold large public rallies, were restored. Additional support from Jamaati Islami at the same time gave Ershad's political vehicle for the transition from martial law some form of legitimacy and the political order of Ershad and his Jatiya Party was established.

Despite a boycott by the BNP, led Begum Khaleda Zia, parliamentary elections were held on schedule in May 1986. The Jatiya Party won a modest majority of the 300 elected seats in the national assembly. The participation of the Awami League led by party chairman Sheikh Hasina Wazed—lent the elections some credibility, despite widespread charges of voting irregularities and ballot box theft.

Ershad resigned as Army Chief of Staff and retired from military service in preparation for the presidential elections, scheduled for October 1986. Protesting that martial law was still in effect, both the BNP refused to put up opposing candidates. The Awami League participated by breakinh their open public promise. Ershad easily outdistanced the remaining candidates, taking 84% of the vote. Although Ershad's government claimed a turnout of more than 50%, opposition leaders of BNP, and much of the foreign press, estimated a far lower percentage and alleged voting irregularities.

Ershad continued his stated commitment to lift martial law. In November 1986, his government mustered the necessary two-thirds majority in the national assembly to amend the constitution and confirm the previous actions of the martial law regime. The President then lifted martial law, and the opposition party Awami League of Hasina Wazed took their elected seats in the national assembly.

In July 1987, however, after the government hastily pushed through a controversial legislative bill to include military representation on local administrative councils. Passage of the bill helped spark an opposition movement by Bangladesh Nationalist Party that quickly gathered momentum. The Awami League and Jamaat Islami understanding their political gamble, gradually united with Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the first time. The government began to arrest scores of opposition activists under the country's Special Powers Act of 1974. Despite these arrests, opposition parties continued to organize protest marches and nationwide strikes. After declaring a state of emergency, Ershad dissolved Parliament and scheduled fresh elections for March 1988.

All major opposition parties refused government overtures to participate in these polls, maintaining that the government was illegal and incapable of holding free and fair elections. Despite the opposition boycott, the government proceeded. The ruling Jatiya Party won 251 of the 300 seats. The Parliament, while still regarded by the opposition as an illegitimate body, held its sessions as scheduled, and passed a large number of bills, including, in June 1988, a constitutional amendment making Islam Bangladesh's state religion.

By 1989, the domestic political situation in the country seemed to have quieted. The local council elections were generally considered by international observers to have been less violent and more free and fair than previous elections. However, opposition to Ershad's rule began to regain momentum, escalating by the end of 1990 in frequent general strikes, increased campus protests, public rallies, and a general disintegration of law and order.

On December 6, 1990, after 2 months of widespread civil unrest, Ershad offered his resignation. On February 27, 1991, an interim government oversaw what most observers believed to be the nation's second most free and fair elections to date.

Hasina-Khaleda rivalry

Begum Khaleda Zia
Hasina Wajed

1991-1996: Khaleda Zia

The center-right BNP won a plurality of seats and formed a coalition government with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, with Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, obtaining the post of Prime Minister. Only four parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1991 Parliament: The BNP, led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia; the AL, led by Sheikh Hasina; the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), led by Golam Azam; and the Jatiya Party (JP), led by acting chairman Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury while its founder, former President Ershad, served out a prison sentence on corruption charges. The electorate approved still more changes to the constitution, formally re-creating a parliamentary system and returning governing power to the office of the prime minister, as in Bangladesh's original 1972 constitution. In October 1991, members of Parliament elected a new head of state, President Abdur Rahman Biswas.

In March 1994, controversy over a parliamentary by-election, which the opposition claimed the government had rigged, led to an indefinite boycott of Parliament by the entire opposition. The opposition also began a program of repeated general strikes to press its demand that Khaleda Zia's government resign and a caretaker government supervise a general election. Efforts to mediate the dispute, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Secretariat, failed. After another attempt at a negotiated settlement failed narrowly in late December 1994, the opposition resigned en masse from Parliament. The opposition then continued a campaign of Marches, demonstrations, and strikes in an effort to force the government to resign. The opposition, including the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina, pledged to boycott national elections scheduled for February 15, 1996.

In February, Khaleda Zia was re-elected for the second term by a landslide in voting boycotted and denounced as unfair by the three main opposition parties. In March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the sitting Parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to allow a neutral caretaker government to assume power conduct new parliamentary elections; former Chief Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman was named Chief Advisor (a position equivalent to prime minister) in the interim government. New parliamentary elections were held in June 1996 and were won by the Awami League; party leader Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister.

1996-2001: Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina formed what she called a "Government of National Consensus" in June 1996, which included one minister from the Jatiya Party and another from the Jatiyo Samajtantric Dal, a very small leftist party. The Jatiya Party never entered into a formal coalition arrangement, and party president H.M. Ershad withdrew his support from the government in September 1997. Only three parties had more than 10 members elected to the 1996 Parliament: The Awami League, BNP, and Jatiya Party. Jatiya Party president, Ershad, was released from prison on bail in January 1997.

Although international and domestic election observers found the June 1996 election free and fair, the BNP protested alleged vote rigging by the Awami League. Ultimately, however, the BNP party decided to join the new Parliament. The BNP soon charged that police and Awami League activists were engaged in large-scale harassment and jailing of opposition activists. At the end of 1996, the BNP staged a parliamentary walkout over this and other grievances but returned in January 1997 under a four-point agreement with the ruling party. The BNP asserted that this agreement was never implemented and later staged another walkout in August 1997. The BNP returned to Parliament under another agreement in March 1998.

In June 1999, the BNP and other opposition parties again began to abstain from attending Parliament. Opposition parties have staged an increasing number of nationwide general strikes, rising from 6 days of general strikes in 1997 to 27 days in 1999. A four-party opposition alliance formed at the beginning of 1999 announced that it would boycott parliamentary by-elections and local government elections unless the government took steps demanded by the opposition to ensure electoral fairness. The government did not take these steps, and the opposition has subsequently boycotted all elections, including municipal council elections in February 1999, several parliamentary by-elections, and the Chittagong city corporation elections in January 2000. The opposition demands that the Awami League government step down immediately to make way for a caretaker government to preside over parliamentary and local government.

2001-2006: Khaleda Zia

A Khaleda-led four-party alliance won two-thirds of total parliamentary seats, while Awami League won only 62 seats that represent the smallest opposition after 1991. Khaleda Zia won a second term in 2001. Her coalition included several Islamist parties.

2006-2008: caretaker government

An election was scheduled for the beginning of 2007, however it did not take place. The caretaker government was accused of BNP bias by Hasina and her coalition, who fomented nationwide protests and shut-downs. Given the parties' failure to agree on a candidate, according to the constitution the position devolved to the President, Iajuddin Ahmed, serving since 2002. He took it on in addition to his regular responsibilities, which under the caretaker government included the Defense Ministry. Iajuddin Ahmed formed a government, appointing ten advisors to a council to act as ministers. He appointed his press spokesman, the journalist-editor turned politician M Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, as his chief Presidential Advisor, with the status of Minister of State. Chowdhury had the responsibility to negotiate with the political parties to bring them to participation in the election.[12] In January 2007, the head of the caretaker government stepped down, under pressure from the military.[13]

Fakhruddin Ahmed, former World Bank economist, was selected to replace him and has committed himself to rooting out corruption and preparing a better voter list. A State of Emergency was declared and a massive campaign to crack down on corruption is underway. By July 2007 some 200,000 people had been arrested. The government says it will hold elections before the end of 2008.

In April, Ahmed's military back administration attempted to reform the political parties by exiling Hasina and Zia, but they backed down amid domestic and international protestations. Hasina, who had been visiting her children in the US, was allowed to return but she faced serious charges, including involvement in the assassination of four political rivals. In July, she was taken into custody after two businessmen testified that she had extorted 80 million (US$1.16 million) from them.[14] This provoked angry protests from her supporters; even her bitter rival Khaleda Zia, as well as six British MPs and MEPs, called for her release.[15] Khaleda herself faces charges of tax evasion.

2009-2013: Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power through winning vast majority of parliament seats the election held on December 29, 2008 and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina becomes the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the second time. Her cabinet took oath of office on January 6, 2009.

2014-Present: Sheikh Hasina

In the tenth general election, Sheikh Hasina won a controversial one-sided walkover election after her main rival Khaleda Zia and all other opposition parties boycotted the polls. Snap elections are likely to be held before the tenth parliament expires in 2019 to ensure that all parties participate.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-23
  4. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-25
  5. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-27
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-30
  8. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-33
  9. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-36
  10. ^ Bangladesher Nirbachan 1970-2001 by A S M Samsul Arefin, Bangladesh Research and Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2003, page-40
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Former Bangladesh PM arrested in corruption crackdown, The Guardian, July 16, 2007
  15. ^ UK MPs denounce Bangladesh arrest, BBC News, 23 July 2007

External links

  • Global Integrity Report: Bangladesh has details of anti-corruption efforts.
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