A SAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY
More than half of the country's voters were made redundant much before the polling on January 5 as 153 of the 300 MPs were elected uncontested in the 10th parliamentary election. In the remaining 147 seats, less than even half of the voters did not find it necessary to exercise their rights to franchise in the one-sided election.
Yet, the Awami League that retained the state power through the election had announced that it would celebrate the first anniversary of the election as "day of victory of democracy." The party high command has never hesitated to keep claiming that that election has saved the country's democracy.
The BNP that boycotted the January 5 polls and had unleashed some unprecedented violence to resist the polls has announced that it would observe January 5 this year as "the death of democracy." It wanted to hold a rally in the capital. So, it had applied to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police seeking permission.
On the directive of the government, the police did not give the BNP any permission. Instead, on January 3 mid night, the police systemically beefed up security measures surrounding Khaleda Zia's Gulshan office to keep her confined in the office. Police also barred her from coming out of the office. The same night police locked up the main gate of the BNP's central office in the city's Nayapaltan. In the afternoon of January 4, the police also imposed a ban on holding rallies, procession and forming human chain in the city for an indefinite period.
All the legal and illegal measures were aimed at foiling the BNP's planned rally and thwarting the BNP men from taking to the streets on the day. The AL celebrated the "day of victory of democracy" by keeping Khaleda confined in her Gulshan office and the BNP office under lock and key. By doing so, the government has proved that it does not care about democracy and rule of law. To counter the government's strategy, the BNP chief has called for an indefinite blockade from January, proving that she also cares little about people. Both sides are hungry for grabbing the state power.
We all know more or less about the unfettered power of the UK parliament. It is the lone parliament in the world of democracy that can make or unmake any law. To describe its unlimited law-making power it is said that the UK parliament can make law setting a provision that all blue-eyed boys in UK would be killed. It can also enact law imposing a ban on plying vehicles in the streets of Germany! Such laws, if the UK parliament, the mother parliament of the world, enact will not be called illegal. The UK government however does not enjoy unlimited power. It is accountable to the parliament for its every action. This is the situation in the UK, the birth place of the Westminster model of democracy.
The latest situation in Bangladesh’s political landscape portrays a completely contrasting picture of the Westminster model of democracy. Though we claim that we follow the Westminster model of democracy, here, the parliament remains paralysed. People in fact had little to say in the formation of the current parliament. Therefore, this parliament cannot claim to be constituted by people's will. So, it cannot claim that it represent people who are the owner of the all powers of the state. So, basically it has little power in context to the present political situation. But the interesting thing is that the the parliament now enjoys unfettered powers to do anything. Being the creator, the parliament is unable to hold the government accountable. Interestingly, the government has frequently been claiming that it has got the people's mandate to wield power.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.