Friday, March 14, 2008

On political party reformation


REFORMATION, ESPECIALLY reformation of political parties is a buzzword that has been baffling the people of the country since the present army-backed government assumed power last year. Since the installation of this government, some advisers of the government along with its some cohorts from different political parties and civil society are emphasising on the urgency of reformation in political parties. Ironically, this advocacy for reformation of political party has distorted the very connotation of the terminology ‘reformation’. To them reformation signifies the dislodgement of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from their apex positions of their respective parties namely AL and BNP. For this, following the Pakistan’s general Musharaf’s steps they are trying to implement the so called ‘minus-two’ theory. For this, the powerful quarters of the government have initiated their all out efforts. The failure of their initial step for deporting the two ladies in exile has compelled them to adopt new strategies. Perhaps, the lodging case against them, and arrangement of trial in the ‘kangaroo court’ especially against Sheikh Hasina with a view to debarring her from participating in the forthcoming election is a part of this strategy. On contrary, the common people of the country though are inspired to see the reformation of the political parties, their aspirations are completely different. To them, dislodgment of the apex leaders of the political parties will merely dismantle the political institutions rather than bringing any positive outcome. In fact, the common people of the country want to see a qualitative change in the political parties. Much before the initiation of this government, in our political arena, the necessity of reformation of our political parties has been widely discussed.

No doubt, our political domain is now moth-eaten. Ideological bankruptcy, devoid of internal practice of democracy, non-tolerance, dominance of muscle power and above all political criminalisation are the essence of the present day politics in Bangladesh. To get rid of these, political parties must be reformed. For this, some identified reformation strategies can be outlined as follows:

a) The political party must ensure the internal practice of democracy. For this, they should arrange regular council at the grass root level following the provisions of their respective party constitution. If the party wants to participate in the national election then the selection of top leaders including the party chief, and the members in different committees of the party should be formed in a democratic manner. Moreover, the party constitution should include a provision for accountability of the party leaders to its members, if there is none in the existing constitution. The election commission should devise a strategy for monitoring whether a party is practising democratic norm in this regard.

b) The political party must not give party membership to any identified criminals or convicted persons (at least for certain period after their punishment) with a view to decriminalising the political arena of the country.

c) In a party forum at different stages representation from different segments of the society should be ensured. Especially, proportionate inclusion of womenfolk should be considered for more empowerment of the weaker gender.

d) Party must have some vision and mission and work for the society in line of these.

e) Nomination process for the national election should be carried out very carefully. Honest, dedicated, knowledgeable and persons of full integrity should be selected for the candidature for the national as well as the local body elections. For nominating the candidate for any election, the party can follow some democratic approach for the better outcome. This eventually, will stop the ‘nomination trades’ as we observed at the advent of some elections held in the past.

f) Before election the party must explicitly announce its electoral manifesto. If the party wins then the party must initiate all out steps to fulfil the pledges that ascribed in the electoral manifesto.

g) Financial transaction of the party must be transparent. For this, regular auditing of party fund and transaction must be done and expose to the party members. The election commission should take initiative in this regards with a view to minimising the corruption level of the country.

h) Political parties should always be dynamic and pro-people. For this party should have a research cell which can play a vital role in making pro-people decision.

i) Religion is a very sensitive and emotional issue. Use of religions, especially in electoral campaign must not be encouraged by the party. Election Commission in this context can play a positive role.

If the political party reforms in line of above stated guidelines then, no doubt, the present turmoil and rotten political domain of the country will transform into healthy and congenial one.

However, in the name of reformation, the efforts of the some vested quarters inside and outside of the present government are really deplorable. Forceful dislodgement in the leadership of two major parties will not be consistent with the democratic norm. One of the major objective of this interim government is to help the country in its strive to move forward towards true democracy. True democracy will not be established at all if the government follows any undemocratic step.

Whether Hasina or Khaleda will continue as head of their respective parties would be decided by their followers, not by any external force. What the government can do in this context is to monitor through the Election Commission whether the political parties those are inspired to participate in the election do practise democracy internally. For this, a new law can also be introduced which may restrict the political parties from participation in the electoral process -- those do not practise democracy internally.

In conclusion, any sort of reformation of the political party should follow the bottom up approach. The party members at the grass root levels should decide what reformation they want to see in their respective parties and only then a sustainable reformation can be achieved. Adoption of any top down approach for so called reformation will only weaken the political party without realising the major spirit of the reformation. #

First published in, New York, March 14, 2008 Md. Anwarul Kabir is an educationist, working at the Computer Science Department of AIUB and a freelance writer