Authoritarianism: In government or in parties

Syed Azam

the elected government is also often seen wearing this label.

Leaders of various parties, whether right or left, have been calling Sheikh Hasina’s government an authoritarian government for several years. It has been uttered so many times that I can’t remember who said it first. But from the beginning, when leaders other than a couple of left-wing politicians lashed out at the government, I laughed. This is because none of the parties that those leaders represent are democratically run.

Most importantly, BNP, the largest anti-government political party, has not set any example of practicing democratic practices in front of the people even when they have been in power for a long time, so that they have the moral right to criticize others as authoritarian. However, its pretext does not justify the undemocratic behavior of the other side.

Literally ‘authoritarianism’ is a type of political and governmental system in which there is blind obedience to authority and suppression of individual freedom of thought and action. Authoritarian regimes refer to systems of government in which there are no institutional mechanisms for the transfer of power and no civil or political rights. All power is concentrated in the hands of one person or a small elite group. In this case, the first thing that comes to mind is the military government.

However, the elected government is also often seen wearing this label. Former US President Donald Trump’s regime has also been called an authoritarian regime by many. When Trump came to power, Harvard University political scientist Stephen Walt talked about 10 signs of authoritarianism. The symptoms are roughly as follows—control of information systems through fear or anxiety; establishment of a tabedar information system; partisanship of administration and security; using intelligence agencies to monitor opposition politicians; Rewarding loyal traders, punishing disobedient traders; Bringing the judiciary into its own hands; Application of law to one party only; Irregularities in voting system for self-interest; Fear mongering and disinformation about opposition politicians. In recent years there has been a trend in the West to use Walt’s ‘checklist’ to measure how authoritarian a country is.

Therefore, even if the current government is called authoritarian, it is not much of an exaggeration. But the big parties in this country, where most of the political parties are managed by a single leadership and authority, even if they come to power through voting, it is absurd to expect democratic behavior from them. Political scientist professor Dr. In 2015, Rawonak Jahan published an indictment on the country’s political parties. It highlights the apparent lack of democratic practices within the two major parties.

He also made several recommendations regarding the reformation of political parties to sustain democracy in the country. Important recommendations include—abandon undemocratic practices of political parties; Parties must comply with the legal conditions of constitution and registration etc. Although these political scientists advise the parties to follow the constitution, in reality the constitution itself remains in limbo.

In a research paper titled ‘The State of Governance Bangladesh 2013: Democracy, Party, Politics’ by BRAC University’s Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), it is said that there is a ‘complete lack’ of democratic practices in the country’s two major parties. Although there is a little discussion to protect the constitution in Awami League, these issues are not well arranged in the constitution of BNP.

There was not much discussion about other parties. However, although there are some democratic attitudes and practices in one or two small groups, it is still not in a position to be reflected in the public mind. The special aspect of political leadership in the country is that the two major parties have been headed by the same person for 40 years. Succession leadership is prevailing in all groups. The situation is the same till the grass roots level. Political parties have not been able to develop a culture suitable for a democratic party.

A big example of authoritarianism in political parties in the country was seen very recently. After disbanding four metropolitan committees of BNP including Dhaka last month, major changes have been made in the national executive committee of the party without any discussion at any level of the party. The term of the party’s national executive committee has, however, expired long ago. But there is no initiative to make a council, the reshuffle of 39 posts of this committee has been informed through a press release.

When the leaders and workers of the party were preparing for the Eid-ul-Azha celebration, a press release signed by Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of BNP, added some new people to 39 posts in the central executive committee of the party, and some were changed.

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