Background

After the independence of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, Bangladesh has gone through several political transformations. However, there has been always challenge for holding a free, fair and widely acknowledged national election system until a system of caretaker government system is adopted through the constitutional amendment in 1996 by the contemporary Bangladesh Nationalist Party led government. The risk of election manipulation by government who are in the power, especially perceived from the experience of dictator governance by ex army person HM Ershad, the idea of holding national election under a non-party caretaker government was conceived as a solution. It was perceived that the non-party neutral caretaker government preferably led by immediate former chief justice would not likely manipulate the electoral process as the members of this government are not allowed to contest in the election According to the constitutional article (58B), before 15th amendment made by current Awami League led government, the caretaker government’s primary function was to create a peaceful, fair and impartial environment for general election, being a non-party administration. In addition, this government was responsible for exercising the regular functions of government with the support and assistance from the staffs of Republic. They should not, however, make any policy decision except in the case of necessity. Despite of mere flaws, this system reasonably worked well until it is abused by a military backed so called ‘caretaker government’, who took over power on 11 January, 2007. But followed by a Supreme Court advisory opinion that the caretaker government system was unconstitutional but should nevertheless be retained for the next two elections, on 30 June 2011, the parliament, in the absence of main opposition party namely BNP, amended the constitution to abolish the caretaker government. And this is made happen by the similar Awami League, who did in 1996, extensive rampage and violence to force then BNP government to enact the caretaker government. Now, under the prevailing condition, the country is again hugely vulnerable to electoral coup, since the new amendment allows holding national election under the supremacy of last government. Unfortunately, the signs of democracy Awami League have been practicing over the last three and half year jeopardizes the political environment of Bangladesh. Conspicuously, it is impossible to get a free, fair and impartial national election under this 15th amendment that will hugely favor current AL government. Therefore, it is very urgent to revive non-party neutral government system at any means to restore peaceful electoral system in Bangladesh. This report analyzes those conditions made by current government which made non-party caretaker government system necessary for the country. Caretaker Government (CG) in Bangladesh The system of CG in Bangladesh was first introduced in 1990 when an uprising against the dictator HM Ershad was led by three party alliances who jointly demanded for it. Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed was made the first Chief Advisor of that interim government, though he was named as ‘temporary president’. Since 1996, the CG has undertaken the elections of 1996,

This parliament is dissolved on 14July 2001 by the President. Making a false allegation regarding affiliation with BNP. However. the eighth national election was held. Under this government. who were respectively party chief of BNP and AL. who supposed to be the chief advisor of the Caretaker Government as per the constitution. Countrywide violence. due to the opposition party. Dr. 2007. i. sidelining Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina from politics. for example. However the effort did not succeed.party Opposition alliance led by Awami League (AL) decided to boycott the elections on January 7. AL declared to stop Justice KM Hasan from being the chief advisor in anyway. Meanwhile. 2007. where six Jamat e Islami activists were killed to death by charging bait on them.e. they started to seek alternative political platform named as ‘kings party’ initially by pursuing Prize winner Mohammad Yunus. However. The election got a wide credibility. In that circumstance. Through filing various corruption cases. Awami League’s continuous complaining of foul play in the election process. Simultaneously. On January 12. by pulling out politicians from both parties in the name of ‘reforming’. This splitting effort also went in vain. The election was appreciated both nationally and internationally. In the national election of 1996. This interim government violated the constitution by not holding election within three months and remained in the power about two years in the name of political reformation. Bangladesh Awami League won over 147 parliamentary seats having a coalition with Jamat-e-Islami. Situation got worse when the 14. 2007. uncertainty of ninth national election and after all military intervention forced President Iajuddin to impose emergency on 11th January. Although the CG system of Shahabuddin Ahmed government was formed to come over from the dictatorship to democracy. BNP alliance government completed its term in the midst of chaos and violence and President Iajuddin Ahmed declared himself as the Chief Advisor. the election process got seriously interrupted. KM Hasan declined to take oath as chief advisor. Under the provision of amended constitution. Latifur Rahman was then appointed as Chief Adviser according to the act 58(C) of the national constitute. chaos got continued as Awami League was still on street demanding the removal of Chief Election Commissioner who was accused of favoring BNP as well as opposed to the decisions of President Iajuddin Ahmed. Faced with the lack of transparent reform agenda and declining . the CG system was constitutionalized in 1996 by the sixth parliament led by BNP under the demand of main opposition and its alliance. where BNP led coalition gained the two-third majority in the election. Fakruddin Ahmed. BNP apparently became the main opposition by winning over 116 seats. 2007 and stepped down from the post of Chief Advisor of the Caretaker government. The immediate retired chief Justice Md. the Fakruddin government backed by General Moeenuddin sent both party chief into the jail. was appointed as the Chief Advisor of the military-backed caretaker government.2001 and 2008. the reform was mainly central to the “minus two” project. A dreadful clash was observed on 28th October between Jamat e islami and Awami league activists at the Paltan. the first non-party caretaker government was headed by Justice Habibur Rahman. However. popularly known as Fakruddin-Moeenuddin government. They had been opposing Justice KM Hasan all along. The military backed interim government still continued their efforts in other ways. this ultimately led to destructive politics and countrywide rampage. The ninth parliamentary election was supposed to be held January 22.

which is more surprising and irony for the nation. Necessities of Non-party Caretaker Government in Bangladesh Context Although the concept of caretaker government is not new in democratic countries.e. has been crushed. In the election.” The 13th amendment. which is believed to be delivered by AL govt this time because of their immense majority. manipulation free and fair system of government formation. provision of non-party caretaker government system ultimately reflected a public consensus on a violent free. At last. The national election held under otherwise non-party government failed to achieve credibility among political parties as well as general people of the country. they accepted the result of 2008 and joined the parliament from the enthusiasm that greeted the revival of democracy. Historically there are examples of election manipulation and rigging under outgoing political government. But at the end of three and half years of Awami League government. democratic system is secured. i. Despite some constitutional loopholes the system appeared to be credible in national election management. 11/02/12) “With such amendment. BNP led government enacted the 13 th amendment in 1996 to start a unique system of caretaker government. free will of the people for exercising their fundamental right of casting vote in the general election. discriminating administrative actions against their candidates. outgoing political government had to step down at the end of their 5 year tenure and new constitutional government preferably led by immediate retired chief justice would take the charge for interim 3 months period. Consequently. the hope of a strong democracy. While the full judgment is yet to publish. the caretaker government was compelled to make the “minus two” to an end and release both women. a professor of law in the Dhaka University (the Daily Star.internal and foreign support. the Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Hasina. has contributed to the establishment of democracy in its true meaning. end to a two-year military backed caretaker government took place when the general election held On 29 December 2008. Understanding the reality. despite most of the ameci curaes’ opinions in favor of continuing the system. The report of International Crisis Group on Bangladesh (Bangladesh: back to future) expresses as follows: . Although BNP had severely complained about the voting rate. In this system. The practice of a non-party caretaker government in Bangladesh has been rooted in the political culture of the country featured with various types of negative relationships among political parties. Future uncertainty under Awami League government The system of non-party caretaker government got legally challenged several times but ultimately got saved by judicial verdict before 2012. According to Dr Borhan Uddin Khan. But the 13 th amendment per se the system of non-party caretaker government was surprisingly declared as void by the justice of Supreme Court on 15 May 2012. the national parliament already abolished the non-party caretaker government system. it was conceived in Bangladesh. apparently made a land slide victory by taking 229 of 300.

a partisan judiciary and bureaucracy and worsening human rights violations. It is not clear how serious the coup plans it alleges were being made at the beginning of the year were in fact. she had enormous opportunities to reform the democratic system of Bangladesh politics. Based on extensive interviews and other sources. prevent constitutional change and stack state organs with party sympathisers.” Given the brutal majority Sheikha Hasina led AL achieved in the national election of 2008. . In a major show of force on 12 March 2012. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has been marked by the usual poor governance indicators: high levels of corruption. Here is a short list how the current AL government is very keen to perpetuate their dictatorship wrapped with so called ‘democracy’: 1. Since taking office on 3 January 2009. But they totally failed to deliver up to expected governance for the nation.000 people attended a BNP rally in Dhaka. The military is also showing signs of frustration.“…. but senior officers say disaffection and anger are widespread and rising. even though the government virtually cut nationwide transport links to prevent supporters from joining. But more violent political confrontations loom if no accommodation between the two parties is reached. Sheikh Hasina has used her mandate to restrict democratic space. Rather they are apparently appeared to destroy every type of opponent voices including the main opposition party. It is no surprise that the public has now slowly turned against the government or that the BNP has regained much of its strength. It has now been emphatically crushed.Three and a half years ago there was palpable hope for change. 100. She has also alienated the military. this report looks at why public trust in the AL government declined and examines the risks another prolonged electoral deadlock in 2013 would pose.