Tuesday, 28 March, 2023

Upcoming National Election and Challenges for Bangladesh

  • Dr. Akhter Hussain
  • 13th March, 2023 07:58:21 PM
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Upcoming National Election and Challenges for Bangladesh

The current 11th Bangladesh Parliament or Jatiyo Sangsad is scheduled to complete its 5 year term on 29 January 2024. Here it should be noted that the first session of the Parliament was held on 30 January 2019. The Constitution of the country in Article 123 stipulates that “A general election of the members of Parliament shall be held- (a) in the case of a dissolution by reason of the expiration of its term, within the period of ninety days preceding such dissolution ; and (b) in the case of a dissolution otherwise than by reason of such expiration, within ninety days after such dissolution: Provided that the persons elected at a general election under sub-clause (a) shall not assume office as members of Parliament except after the expiration of the term referred to therein.” Since independence in 1971, 11 general elections were held to elect members of the Jatiyo Sangsad or Parliament. The Jatiyo Sangsad consists of 350 members elected to five-year terms. Of that number, 300 are elected in single-member territorial constituencies. The remaining 50 seats are reserved for women, and are filled on the basis of proportional representation in the Parliament. The number of reserved seats has been revised over the years, increasing from 30 to 45 under the 8th parliament and 45 to 50 under the 9th parliament.

In view of the above fact and reality, the current year may be termed as the election year for Bangladesh. In every general election, political parties contest for winning the election so that later they can form the government. Here it should be noted that Bangladesh has a multi-party system of Parliamentary democracy. The party or the alliance that wins or commands the support of the majority in the Parliament forms the government.

In the present election year, Bangladesh is passing through a number of challenges both in the economic and the political fronts. These challenges will significantly influence or impact the country as a whole and the total election process of the country. For about a year or so, Bangladesh economy is under a number of stresses if not threats. According to many, these are high rate of inflation, persistent fossil fuel crisis, weak banking sector, fall in foreign remittance, weakening of Taka in terms of exchange rate with US Dollar and above all trade deficit affecting the balance of payment situation and depleting foreign exchange reserves. All these have contributed in weakening of country’s macroeconomic stability. However, to contain further weakening of the macroeconomic stability, the government has taken a number of belt tightening initiatives to control government expenditures and import of nonessential goods and decided to provide incentives to remittance earners to augment the flow of remittance though the formal channels. At the same time, the government has also successfully negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial support of about 4.7 Billion US dollar. It is learnt that other multi-lateral and bilateral development partners are also contemplating for providing further financial assistance to Bangladesh to overcome the situation.

However, many are of the opinion that the current economic challenges are partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia–Ukraine war. But these current economic problems of the country have also roots to the poor and neglected system of economic governance. As such, while addressing the immediate problems that affect the country and its people, the governance issues also need to be solved though concerted prudent efforts of the government.

As mentioned earlier, this is also the election year. The country is going to elect the 12 Parliament either at the end of this year or early next year as per the provisions of the Constitution. This will call for meeting many challenges in the political front. The biggest problem will be conducting an inclusive election which would warrant participation of all political parties in the election. Many demands are being raised especially by the opposition parties for ensuring neutrality in the election. Some are also in favour of bringing back the system of caretaker government for holding the election. Here it needs to be pointed out that the caretaker system of government has already been declared unconstitutional by the apex court. Later amendment to the constitution was also brought discarding the system. This kind of demand will further complicate the political situation in the country. Political instability in the form of agitation of various forms like strike, Hartal and extreme measure called ‘Oborodh’ might be used by the opposition political parties to realize their demands. This kind of situation will also open the floodgate for the interference of the external foreign forces to interfere in the internal affairs, particularly politics, of the country. Like in the past, if the country's political environment, especially in the year of national elections, becomes uncertain and leads to instable situation, it will have a negative impact on business and investment in 2023. This will further aggravate the economic scenario which is already under stress as mentioned earlier.

The above are some very pertinent challenges that Bangladesh will have to address particularly in 2023, the election year. Successful overcoming of these will be a quite difficult, if not impossible, task. This will call for collaboration of all concerned stakeholders, particularly the party in power and the opposition political parties and the Election Commission. Failure in this regard will lead to anarchy and instability which will ultimately hard hit the economy of the country and its common people. Whatever, Bangladesh has gained in all these years in the economic and social fronts, including alleviating poverty, will be put to grave danger if not lost. It must be remembered by all that we cannot jeopardize the interest of the country and its people who have made supreme sacrifices first in gaining independence by dedicating their lives and later by undergoing extreme hardship for turning the wheels of economy to ensure better lives for the future generations to come.

(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)

 The writer is Distinguished Professor (Public Administration), Institute of Bangabandhu War of Liberation Bangladesh Studies, National University.

Source: Sun Editorial