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New Bangladesh government has no effective opposition

Critics say "immoral" political situation will harm democracy

New Bangladesh government has no effective opposition

Bangladesh National Assembly building (picture: Chandan Robert Rebeiro) reporter, Dhaka

January 13, 2014

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Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League Party formed a new government on Sunday with 49 cabinet members including some opposition leaders.

The new government has no effective opposition after the Awami League won last week’s election virtually uncontested, in a poll that was hamstrung by a low turnout, an opposition boycott, deadly violence and widespread international criticism.

Three leaders of the JP, Jatiya Party, formerly the third largest political party and now the main opposition, were made ministers. This means the JP is now in both government and opposition, a rare case in the 43-year history of Bangladesh.

It is a state of affairs that has drawn criticism from experts, even among the Awami League leadership.

“Bangladesh is going to experience a new form of democracy which is beneficial for all the winning parties, but is likely to do harm to traditional democratic principles,” said prominent barrister, jurist and constitution expert Rafique-ul-Haque.

Top Awami League leader Surnanjit Sengupta said that without a strong opposition, democracy has no custodian.

“In any parliamentary democracy, the opposition party plays a vital role by supporting the government for its good deeds and criticizing failures,” he said. “By joining the government the opposition has lost its moral grounds to be critical when it fails.”

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the second largest party which boycotted the polls along with 20 allies after PM Sheikha Hasina refused to make way for a non-party caretaker government to oversee the polls, has called the new government illegitimate and immoral.

“Today is a black day for Bangladesh.... A sinister journey of autocratic dictatorship has started by suppressing the democratic spirit,” said BNP acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam in a statement on Sunday.

Islam said that Bangladeshi people would not gain anything from a “pet opposition” and urged the government to quit immediately and hand over power to a non-party caretaker administration, with a view to holding a free, fair election with the participation of all parties.

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