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Problems of Democracy- Undemocratic and Un-institutionalized Political Parties

Political parties are backbone of democracy. Without practicing democracy within the party unit, it is quite impossible to expect democracy at the governmental level. But in Bangladesh political parties are mostly autocratic with absolute control of the parties’ chiefs over organizational and decision-making process. “The internal governing structure of the political parties is far from the fully democratic;
there is no free play of diversity of opinions that reach a consensus on policy issues through a policy of dialogue and debate within the individual forums. All the decisions are made by the party leaders and are carried out by the rest”[1]. The constitutions of the most of the parties are absolutely monolithic in nature. The party chairman can make and dissolve any committee from the highest to the lowest level. The party structure and committees are filled by nomination not by election.

Institutionalized political parties are considered to be the key to the development of democracy. But all of the major political parties that exist in Bangladesh are less institutionalized. According to Samuel Paul Huntington, institutionalization of political party implies that a political party must possess certain virtues like adaptability, flexibility and coherence.[2] But these features are absent among almost all the political parties in Bangladesh. Very few of the numerous political parties active in the country are well knit and strictly organized and spread up to the grass root levels having definite policies and programmes of actions.[3]Intense factionalism and polarization among social groups and classes which are formulated along the prevailing inequitable distribution of wealth and power coupled with a widespread network of patron-client relationships pervading the whole society have resulted in a system devoid of institutional virtues. Parties are born out of factions and party politics is almost characterized by factional and parochial interests while policies and decisions reflect strong subjective bias which leaves the interest of the masses at the bay. Whether in the government or in the opposition, parties and their organizational set-ups lack democratic values and the leadership cater to the maximization of the interests of the influential elites and power bases at the cost of the common people.[4]In the country party politics is determined largely by narrow individual or group interests. Political postures, activities and performances are determined by the factors of personalities, influences, patronage and prestige rather than by specific political issues or alternate political programmes. The value orientation and activism of the political elite reflect their urge for enhancing their social prestige, political power and economic status at the cost of national interest.

[1] Islam, Nurul, “Reflections on Democracy and Development in Bangladesh” in Political Culture in Bnagladesh , edt. Syed Saad Andaleeb, UPL, 2007, p.7
[2] Huntington, P. Samuel, Political Order in Changing Societies, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1968
[3] Ahamed, Emajuddin, “Crisis of Democracy in Bangladesh” The Bangladesh Today (Weekly, Dhaka)Vol.2, No.16 1985
[4] Iftekharuzzaman, “Bangladesh in the Changing World: Challenges and Options at Home”, BIISS Journal, Vol.13, No.2 1992, p. 205