Bangladesh’s Political Evolution: Growing Uncertainties

Sreeradha Datta is Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • April 2003

    Unlike many Third World countries, Bangladesh has remained relatively stable and peaceful and escaped from major internal upheavals. While the democratic transition in 1991 was slow and painful, democratic change of governments has become the norm. Leaders are changed through ballots and not bullets and power oscillates between the two principal parties.

    Despite these developments, Bangladesh is in the midst of a host of internal crises which could potentially undermine long-term national stability. The polity, is dominated by changing national identities, growing Islamic fervour in the society, personalised politics, weak institution building, absence of political accountability, lack of responsible opposition and worsening law and order situation leading to the induction of the military in civic duties. Individually these factors are neither unique to Bangladesh nor a serious challenge to its stability. As the paper would argue, Bangladesh belied the promise of democracy it held out at the time of its foundation. This paper seeks to understand the dynamics of the developments that Bangladesh is in the grips of.

    Pre-occupied with personal animosities and rivalries, the government of the day is unable to address the basic issues such as protection of lives and Properties of ordinary citizens. The introduction of special courts, tough legislations and military assistance could partly remedy the situation. The consolidation of democracy along with checks and balances, greater accommodation and tolerance of political differences, are essential if Bangladesh were to avoid the return of military rule.

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