Last two JS polls were devastating
The 15th constitutional amendment, which abolished the caretaker government system allowing national elections under partisan government, had devastating impacts on the last two parliamentary polls, eminent citizens said yesterday.
The last two elections held in 2014 and 2018 were examples of "failed and one-sided elections", they said, adding that a free, fair, participatory, and credible election is a must to put an end to the ongoing political crisis.
Speaking at a webinar, the eminent personalities called for a consensus on election-time government, and constitutional and administrative reforms.
The event titled "Shongbidhan Shongshodhoner 'Opo'rajniti" was organised by Forum for Bangladesh Studies, a platform of researchers, academics and analysts.
Delivering the keynote address, Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik, said the caretaker government system was a politically settled issue, and it was introduced following a movement and based on political consensus. The national elections held in 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2008 under the caretaker government system were free, fair and acceptable.
He said scrapping of the system created a lack of democracy and good governance in the country, and the ineffectiveness of check and balance in parliamentary democracy.
The ongoing crisis about the election-time government is not a constitutional problem, rather a political issue, he added.
Badiul said almost all members of the 104-member special parliamentary committee on constitutional amendment recommended keeping the caretaker government system in the 15th amendment. "But the committee's recommendation changed after a meeting with the prime minister."
The 15th amendment was brought before parliament following the Supreme Court verdict that announced the 13th amendment to the constitution illegal. The 13th amendment incorporated the caretaker government system in the constitution.
The supreme court also ignored the recommendations of amici curiae, Badiul added.
Jurist Shahdeen Malik said the judgement revoking the 13th amendment was the "most damaging verdict" in the last 50 years. He termed it a "predetermined judgement".
"The amendment to the constitution was hastened. It destroyed the process of peaceful transfer of power and political settlement," he said.
Shahdeen said whenever a national election was held under a partisan government, the ruling party won it.
The 15th amendment was tabled in parliament so that ruling party can stay in power, he said.
Ridwanul Hoque, senior law officer at Charles Darwin University of Australia, said it is necessary to involve both the ruling and opposition parties in the process of any constitutional amendment. "But in reality, only the ruling party controls everything [in Bangladesh]."
No referendum was held in the country on most of the constitutional amendments, including the 15th, meaning the people were ignored, he said.
Researcher Adeeba Aziz Khan said successive ruling parties brought changes to the constitution in their own interests. Both the Awami League and BNP were against the caretaker government system during their time in power, she added.