DEMOCRACY BEGINS WITHIN PARTY
Khaleda Zia seems worried about the present state of democracy in the country. On Sunday she told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “there is no democracy in Bangladesh” and sought his assistance for the restoration of democracy.
Her approach is a reflection on our political culture of making complaints to foreign leaders and inviting them to interfere in the country’s domestic politics.
The assistance she sought from Modi during a meeting is aimed at having a fresh parliamentary election. The reason is simple. Only an election can make the BNP return to power.
If it is about democracy, is an election enough to boost it? Even if the BNP goes to power, how will it improve the country’s democracy when an acute deficiency of democracy is visible within the party itself?
What is the present state of democracy in her party that has formed the government thrice since the restoration of democracy in 1990?
Believe it or not, the countrywide non-stop blockade called by Khaleda Zia five months ago is still in force. After she was obstructed by the government to hold a rally on January 5, she called the blockade programme. Many BNP policymakers were in the dark when she announced it as there was no discussion with them.
The blockade was reinforced by enforcing frequent hartals in the following days.
The agitation programme erupted into mindless violence killing more than 100 people as well as giving a severe blow to the country’s economy. Yet, it did not succeed in toppling the Awami League-led government.
Then she backtracked on her party’s joining the May city corporation elections. Again, she did all of it without holding any discussion in any forum in her party.
Against this backdrop, some BNP leaders have been speaking for reorganising the party. But till date, the party’s policymakers could not sit together to discuss their next course of actions.
It is because she did not convene the meeting of BNP’s national standing committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, let alone hold meetings in other forums.
The party’s constitution empowers her to convene the meeting any time. It also obliges her to arrange one such meeting every three months.
It is now difficult for any member of the party’s national standing committee to remember the last time when a meeting was held.
Contacted, a member of the committee yesterday said the last meeting was perhaps held more than six or seven months ago.
The 386-strong national executive committee formed in December 2009, following the fifth council of the party, held its last meeting in 2012. The committee has never sat together since then as the chairperson did not convene it.
The party’s constitution obliges Khaleda to convene a meeting of the executive committee every six months, which is empowered to coordinate the party’s activities at different levels and make directives for implementing the party’s programmes.
Moreover, Khaleda’s tenure as the party chief expired in December 2012.
She was elected for three years in December 2009. She is still holding the post thanks to a provision in the party’s constitution that says the chairperson will continue to hold her office until her successor is elected in the next council.
The party charter stipulates different provisions for ensuring intra-party democracy. But the reality suggests democracy is not for practice within the party, which is facing a crisis unprecedented in its history.
The BNP has no other alternative now than to begin in full swing the practice of intra-party democracy to regain people’s confidence in it.
Otherwise, seeking assistance from the Indian prime minister for the restoration of democracy will not benefit the party in the long run.
But the question whether or not Khaleda will allow anybody inside her party to cooperate with her to ensure intra-party democracy in the BNP appears to be a crucial one.
The situation in the ruling Awami League and the Jatiya Party [we would like to write on them in separate articles] is hardly any better. The parties now suffer little from the lack of intra-party democracy as the AL is in power and the JP, despite being the opposition in parliament, has also got a share of that power.
Political parties play key roles in the proper functioning of a democracy. They are inevitable in a democratic polity and no representative government can work without political parties.
Political parties, according to National Democratic Institute, are the vehicles by which citizens come together freely to campaign for public office, express their interests and needs, and define their aspirations for their society.
Therefore, it is an undeniable truth that the political parries play a great role in strengthening and consolidating democracy. But to play that vita role, a party has to ensure the practice of intra-party democracy first.
In fact, deficiency of democracy within political parties has jeopardised the state of democracy at the national level. To improve the situation, political parties must ensure intra-party democracy first.