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Dhaka Tribune

Independent MPs take centre stage as 12th parliament goes into session

  • A historic record for the highest number of independent MPs
  • JaPa assumes the role of the opposition with 11 members
  • The allocation of reserved seats for women remains a contentious issue
Update : 30 Jan 2024, 09:42 AM

The inaugural session of the 12th parliament commences on Tuesday, starting with President Mohammed Shahabuddin's address at 3pm. 

Similar to the 11th parliament, the Jatiya Party (JaPa) assumes the role of the opposition with 11 members. The ruling party won an overwhelming majority by getting 223 seats and the Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, and Bangladesh Kalyan Party won one seat each.

Notably, this time there is a significant presence of independent parliamentarians–with 62 in total, but 59 of them align with the Awami League politics and will play an opposition role.

This parliament marks a historic record for the highest number of independent MPs, surpassing any previous instances. The six-fold increase in the number of independent MPs compared to opposition members is unprecedented. 

Awami League president and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday said, besides the JaPa, independent MPs have a valuable opportunity to provide constructive criticism from an opposition standpoint.

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury has been nominated as the speaker, and Shamsul Haque Tuku as the deputy speaker for the 12th parliament. President Mohammed Shahabuddin will administer the oath to the speaker and deputy speaker on the first day of the session.

Following this, the president will address the new parliament members, initiating a general discussion on the motion of thanks on the president's speech.

How will the women's seats be allocated?

As the inaugural session of the 12th parliament commences, the allocation of reserved seats for women remains a contentious issue. Questions abound regarding the methodology for distributing these seats.

Given that the JaPa holds the position of the opposition with 11 seats, its allocation in the reserved seats for women may be limited. It might secure one or two seats at most.

Independent MPs, unless they form a coalition, may not have a share in the reserved women's seats. Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan, a former secretary, noted that coalition formation is a prerequisite for claiming this allocation.

On January 28, in a meeting at her official residence Ganabhaban, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited independent parliamentarians who triumphed in the national election. During this gathering, independents reportedly deferred to the prime minister on the decision on reserved women's seats.

Seating arrangements

Preparations for the upcoming session have been completed by the Parliament Secretariat. 

Positioned to the right of the speaker of the parliament is the treasury bench. Leader of the House and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will occupy the first seat on the treasury bench, mirroring the arrangements in the 11th National Parliament. 

According to the parliamentary secretariat, the subsequent seat is designated for Matia Chowdhury, the deputy leader of the House. Following this, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Salim has been allotted the next seat.

In the first row, seats are allocated for Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, former finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, former foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, and Agriculture Minister Md Abdus Shahid. 

Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury, chief whip of the ruling party, will occupy the first row seat behind the parliament leader.

On the opposite side of the parliament leader, adhering to the customary seating arrangements, opposition leader GM Quader will sit in the front row, to the left of the Speaker. 

Chief whip of the opposition Mujibul Haque Chunnu will take the seat behind Quader, while Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, deputy leader of the opposition, will sit next to Quader.

The seat adjacent to the deputy leader of the opposition party is designated for Ruhul Amin Hawladar of JaPa, and the following three seats are allocated to independent MP Abdul Latif Siddique, Major General (retd) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim of Kalyan Party, and Rashed Khan Menon of Workers Party.

Police restrictions

In light of the upcoming parliament session, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has implemented measures to ensure peace and order in and around the national parliament. 

Beginning at midnight on Monday, a prohibition has been placed on the possession of all types of weapons, explosives, and other potentially harmful and polluting substances. Additionally, any form of assembly, procession, demonstration, or rally is strictly prohibited.

According to DMP sources, the restricted areas encompass Mohakhali crossing on Mymensingh Road to Bangla Motor crossing via Old Airport, the western end of Bangla Motor Link Road to Saarc Fountain on Hotel Sonargaon Road, and the eastern end of Panthpath to Farmgate via Green Road junction. 

The ban also extends from Shyamoli junction on Mirpur Road to the junction of Dhanmondi-16 (Old-27) road, Rokeya Sarani junction to Old 9th Division (Aircraft) crossing to Bijoy Sarani crossing, and from the east end of Indira Road to the west end of Manik Mia avenue. 

This restriction encompasses the parliament’s restricted area and all streets and alleys within these demarcated zones. These measures are effective until the conclusion of the first session.

How was the 11th parliament?

The 11th parliament completed its five-year term on January 29. Despite a relatively lower number of working days, totaling 272, this parliament witnessed a record-setting 25 sessions. The active participation of the opposition Japa prevented any parliamentary boycott.

However, concerns about the parliament's effectiveness emerged, especially as BNP parliamentarians, engaged in street activities, resigned a year before their term concluded. 

The entry of the BNP injected vitality, with members being vocal on diverse issues. The parliament came alive, addressing concerns like rising fuel prices and the call to repatriate money stashed abroad. 

However, this vibrancy waned after the BNP's resignation on December 11, 2022.

Subsequently, JaPa, Ganaforum, and independent parliamentarians issued statements, but questions arose regarding parliament's efficacy and the opposition's role. 

According to the Parliament Secretariat, the 11th parliament spanned the period from January 30, 2019, to November 2, 2023, with a total of 272 working days, including the last 25th session's nine working days. 

In comparison, the 10th parliament lasted for 410 working days, and the 9th parliament was in place for 418 working days.

The coronavirus pandemic led to the shortest parliamentary session in the country's history, lasting just one and a half hours. 

It is notable that the 11th parliament witnessed a record number of deaths, with 31 MPs passing away during its tenure, leading to unprecedented by-elections. This had not occurred in any past parliament. 

The postponed election for the Naogaon-2 constituency, following the death of an independent candidate, has been scheduled for February 12.

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