Volume I (2010)
ISSN 2218-2578 The Northern University Journal of Law
Constitutional Reform in Bangladesh: Exploring the Agenda
M. Jashim Ali Chowdhury 1. Prelude The Bangladeshi brand of democracy has caused some horrible nightmares in recent times. Though democracy in Bangladesh has got a certain degree of consolidation during the last eighteen years, ‘she could not make significant progress in consolidating her democratic institutions.’1 Over the years Bangladesh has gone through a phase of ‘illiberal democracy’ with the politicians behaving autocratically, rewarding political supporters and punishing the opposition. Partisan, financial and personal interests curbed the ...view middle of the document...
gdnet.org/global_research_projects/understanding_reform/country_st udies/draft_studies/bangladesh_draft.pdf, Accessed on: May 28, 2009 2 Rounaq Jahan, Bangladesh at a crossroads, paper presented in “Experiments With Democracy”, a symposium on the Asian experience with democracy” Available online: http://www.india-seminar.com/2007/576/576_rounaq_jahan.htm, Accessed on March 25, 2009 3 Md. Shairul Mashreque, Combating misgovernance: Lessons from the caretaker's intervention, The Daily Star, Point Counterpoint, October 1 2007 4 Mahmudul Islam, Constitutional Law of Bangladesh, 2nd Edition, 2002, Mullick Brothers, at p. 65
M. Jashim Ali Chowdhury
Again, though the problems of democracy haunt Bangladesh, the prospects of democracy make her hopeful of a sustainable future. Passing a turbulent infancy, democracy has now become a teenager who sees both the options – persist or perish – open. Being at the cross road there is a whole hearted effort going on in search of a stable, progressive and true democracy. The government has already proclaimed its decision to refer the Constitution to the Law Commission for an A to Z review. This article intends to frame the issues of the reform talk. It attempts to highlight and consolidate the core issues in this regard and proposes an institutional approach5 reverse to the person centered approach.6 It resides on the sincere conviction of the author that Bangladesh has got a superb chance of being a stunning democracy provided she has put the foundation of some of crucial institutions very firm. The Office of President, the Caretaker Government, the Election Commission, the Legislature, the Judiciary, Local Government and the Political Parties are the key area we need to look at. 2. The President Though the President is the constitutional head of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, in reality he is a titular executive performing ceremonial functions only, and the real executive power of the state is exercised by the Cabinet under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Except for appointing the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, the President always act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.7 But there is a wide and deep-rooted belief in the mass people that the prestigious institution of Presidency should not enjoy a mere subsistence. The powers and functions of the President should be increased and the secretariat of the President should be strengthened. Shujan8, a civil society initiative came with some proposals which include the following: 2.1. Election of the President – The President should be elected by an extended electoral college which may comprise the members of the
Institutional approach refers to looking into the political system as whole to cure the constitutional and institutional loopholes that allows the successive political governments to undermine the notion of liberal democracy. 6 Person centered approach seems to give more emphasis on changing the leadership in...