MPs-elect must do so within three days of election results being published in an official gazette
Two hundred and eighty nine lawmakers-elect from the 11th general election on Thursday took oaths at the Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat yesterday.
Seven opposition MPs-elect – five belonging to BNP and two from Gono Forum – however, skipped the swearing in ceremony as the JatiyaOikya Front decided not to take oaths as MPs.
Also, Jatiya Party (JaPa) chief HM Ershad did not take oath while former AL general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam died on Thursday.
The ceremony began around 11am in the Oath Room of the Parliament Complex, after Awami League President and also Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and Speaker ShirinSharminChaudhury, reached the parliament building.
ShirinSharminChaudhury administrated her own oath first and then administrated the others’.
As per the parliamentary practice, lawmakers of the winning side – in this case, 256 from the Awami League – took their oaths first. Later, 21 Jatiya Party (JaPa) MPs-elect were also sworn in around 12:22pm.
After taking the oath, Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been named the Leader of the 11th parliament.
New MPs of Awami League re-elected Hasina as Leader of the House for the third consecutive term at the maiden meeting of the Awami League’s Parliamentary Party (ALPP).
However, the Deputy Leader of the House was not chosen at the first meeting of ALPP.
The 11th parliament will officially begin functioning after the termination of the 10th parliament. The 10th parliament, which was convened on January 29, 2014, will expire on January 28, 2019 according to the constitution.
According to Article 148 (2A) of the constitution, the newly elected MPs are obligated to take the oath within three days of election results being published in an official gazette, otherwise their memberships will be cancelled.
Bangladesh went to the polls on December 30 in 299 out of its 300 general parliamentary seats. Voting in Gaibandha 3 constituency was postponed due to the death of a candidate on December 22.
According to the gazette published by the Election Commission, ruling Awami League won the election by a landslide victory as it bagged 256 seats in parliament.
Jatiya Party, led by former military dictator HM Ershad (JaPa), a partner in AL-led Grand Alliance, won in 22 constituencies.
Among the other partners of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance, BikalpaDhara Bangladesh and JatiyaSamajtantrik Dal won two seats each; Workers Party of Bangladesh won three; and Bangladesh Tariqat Federation won one seat. The Jatiya Party led by Anwar Hossain Manju (JP) secured one seat.
Who to play opposition?
With the seven lawmakers-elect from BNP and its JatiyaOikya Front electoral alliance deciding not to take oath and Ershad’sJatiya Party deciding to join government, it remains a big question up until last night that who would play the role of opposition in the 11th parliament.
Ruling Awami League led grand alliance,that secured a total of 288 seats out of 298 where election results have been declared, will lead the house as ruling coalition.
Jatiya Party, a part of grand alliance, secured second highest number of seats (22) after AL, but their choice to be a part of the ruling government in parliament triggered the question that who are going to play the role of opposition in the JatiyaSangsad.
JatiyaOikya Front, with BNP being its biggest component, secured only seven seats but they declined to sworn in as lawmakers demanding a fresh general election and cancellation of the results of the 11th parliamentary polls.
After the 10th parliamentary polls in 2014 that BNP boycotted, JaPa became played the role of opposition but at the same time three of its lawmakers became the ministers in the government.
“The party’s role is in a questionable state for this dual stance,” according to a Parliament Watch report by Transparency International Bangladesh.
JaPa Co-Chairman GM Quader said they have decided to join the government of Awami League-led Grand Alliance, however did not rule out the possibilities of JaPa becoming the main opposition party in parliament for a second consecutive time.
Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina as the Leader of the House and the prime minister would decide how many leaders from JaPa would be in her Cabinet, he said hinting that they may do the same as they did after 2014.
Replying to another query, he also said that their decision might change, depending on the situation, if elected Oikya Front MPs decide to stay away from taking oath and joining the parliament.
Constitutional expert Dr Shahdeen Malik told the Dhaka Tribune that a strong opposition in parliament is a must to ensure a strong democratic parliamentary system.
“The complete absence of an opposition party in parliament or almost absent role of opposition will be a challenge for the government and democracy,” he said adding that such experience is going to be possibly the first thing in history.
A lawyer by profession Advocate Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah, also a lawmaker from ruling party in Gaibandha-5 constituency, says “No matter what the number is, if the opposition wants, they can make constructive arguments in parliament. However if JaPa wants to be an opposition, it will not be a strong opposition in parliament,” he added.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said that whatever combination is worked out to create an opposition bench in the parliament, it is almost impossible to expect the 11th parliament to be an active one capable of playing its functions of accountability and checks and balance.
The people have seen enough of mockery of JP’s possible dual role in the parliament.
One possibility is to amend Article 70 of the Constitution to create the space for ruling party MPs to be critical of own party and the government. Whether the ruling party will have the courage to do so and whether this will really work is anybody’s guess, he said.