Monday, May 02, 2005

BANGLADESH: Politics - Some ponderables and imponderables

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This very rise (and it has been an unhealthy evolution over the last decade and a half or so) of extreme partisanship has led to the constitutional formation of the caretaker government, an institution that is an anomaly in a liberal pluralist democracy. And here is a practical problem associated with the caretaker system: an institution not democratically elected conducts elections for choosing by ballot parliament members, and then is accused of conducting unfair elections by the losers. Actually, this very accusation is also an outcome of rabid partisanship as it is a manifestation of political intolerance that essentially translates into a disrespect for the norms of liberal pluralist democracy. And, not unsurprisingly, the caretaker system, so eagerly accepted when the proposal for its creation was made, by all the major political parties, has itself now come under attack by some of those very same parties. Such a pitiable cat-chasing-its-tail situation has made the caretaker system inevitable and reflective of the very mindset of the general citizenry towards the essence of democracy: its spirit. No wonder, then, the Director for South Asia of the US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) recently said that the caretaker system is 'unique and time-fitting'. It is at once an acknowledgement of the system's oddity in the context of liberal democracy and an indictment of the country's political culture.

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