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Problems of Democracy- Absence of Participatory Political Culture

The proper functioning of democracy invariably warrants the prevalence of participatory political culture in the country. The legitimacy of any government is unavoidably linked with the sustenance of participatory political process and the voluntary consent of the governed. Participatory political culture implies such norms and values allowing; a) participation of mass people in the state’s affaires and also b) involvement of government, opposition and other stake holders in the national and local decision making process. But such political culture is hardly discerned in Bangladesh. In the country mass participation in the state’s affairs is basically confined in casting votes in both local, sub-local and national level election. Even the verdict of the mass people is not properly reflected in the elect
ion results as these are severely manipulated. Once the election is over the voters hardly see their chosen representatives get elected. Bu in the local and national decision making process people at the grass root level are allowed due opportunity to be participated. It is surprising to see that the level where participation should be the most, it is, in fact, the least. Unless citizens are directly involved in local and national decision making process or are giving input to decisions, the participatory process does not work. Here the victims are accountability and transparency- the essential prerequisites of democracy. If people are not actively involved in the governance process, how can they ensure accountability and transparency of the activities of the government as well as public servants? As a UNDP study observes, “the current extent of participation in the local government operations and management is minimal…the operations and laws of local government are structured to discourage participation”.[1]
 
Participatory political culture is not also seen in our politics. “Winner takes all” attitude is always working in our political arena. Politics is often viewed as an all or nothing game and the competition is fought in a zero sum game format. The winners in the election tend to grasp all state’s opportunities and privileges. There is hardly any perception of sharing or accommodation the process. Oppositions are often labeled as hostile, dogmatic and dangerous. Government do not undertake any policies in consultation with the oppositions. Their views and opinions do not receive due consideration in formulating national policies and programmes which led them in the path of confrontation, agitation against the government. This absence of participatory political culture severely thwarts the institutionalization of democracy in the country.

[1] “Local Government in Bangladesh: An Agenda for Governance”, New York, United Nations Department for Development Support and Management Services, UNDP 1996, P. 62