After the spectacular failures of socialism and dictatorships, democracy has been accepted as the most desirable system throughout the world, because democracy is “people’s power.” It ensures mass participation for determining the absolute power of the state.
According to MacIver: “Democracy is no way of governing whether by the majority or otherwise, but primarily a way of determining who shall govern, and broadly, to what end.” Lincoln has given the most acceptable definition of democracy: “The government by the people, of the people, for the people.”
Though, theoretically speaking, democracy is the best form of government, in practice it is toughest. Sir Henry Maine, had opined: “In all forms of government, democracy is the most complicated.” Thus Bangladesh is practising the most complicated and sophisticated system of government.
Almost one third of its existence of 42 years has been wasted under military rule. It is unfortunate that people Bangladesh could not taste real democracy even under the democratic system because the democratically elected government ran more dictatorially than democratically. For running successful democratic governments, there are obviously some pre-requisites to be fulfilled:
Organised political party and benevolent leadership
In a democratic system, organised political parties teach the general people about their rights and privileges in order to make them vigilant against undemocratic forces. This needs good political organisation and honest leadership. In Bangladesh there is serious scarcity of honest and good politicians. Conditions should be created for such infusion.
Degree of acceptability of democratic practices
To make democratic governments successful, the people must cherish the democratic spirit. They must realise that all democratic rights are obligations that must be reciprocated in a democratic society. Voltaire said long ago: “I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend your right to say till my death.”
The community as a whole is to be restrained, tolerant and committed to fair play towards others. Bangladeshi people must practice self-restraint to make foundation of democracy.
I have already mentioned that democracy is a very sophisticated system. This needs knowledgeable public and political leaders. People must understand that democracy is the best system of governance. Education will enable them to understand the meaning of democracy and to choose right persons to represent their interest.
Democracy cannot flourish in a poor society. It is indeed difficult for democracy to thrive in a society with more than 31% of the population below the poverty line. Eradication of poverty, therefore, must be given top priority in the development effort of the government.
Rule of law
Democracy cannot exist without the operation of rule of law. The present condition of law and order is extremely unhelpful not only for growth but also survival of democracy. Among other serious ills prevailing in our society are corruption, nepotism, and terrorism. These must be immediately brought down to a tolerable limit, if not eradicated altogether. Our politicians must realise that without their concerted and sincere efforts, these cannot be eliminated. Putting the blame on bureaucracy is simply no remedy. The judiciary must be allowed to work independently to ensure establishment of rule of law.
Freedom of expression
Without free media, a democratic government tends to run like a dictatorship. This is particularly true in the case of developing countries where usually money rules. Hopefully, there exists a sort of semblance. The government must encourage further freedom of media to develop its efficiency. Constructive criticism in fact helps them to be effective in both economic and political fields. Even the socialist regimes had realised, if a little too late, that it is a good policy to allow criticism of the government to some extent.
There is hardly anyone who would disagree with the statement that democracy is not running properly in Bangladesh. Our parliament is ineffective. We believe in negative politics. Instead of helping economic growth, we are encouraging stagnation. Strangely enough, governments in a position to do something, try to follow the bad instances left by their predecessors.
We fail to understand why the party (or parties in power) in their bid to punish the opposition, actually punishes the general public. It is time for all the politicians, particularly of the major parties, to think positively for the establishment of true democracy in Bangladesh. Let us not let problems override prospects.