Although there is a wrapper of democracy in the existing regime in Bangladesh, it is questionable how democratic it is in terms of content. The ruling party and its supporters claim that this is a reflection of the aspirations of the citizens of Bangladesh. But what do the people of Bangladesh really mean by democracy, what do they want? We must remember that the four principles of democracy are people’s sovereignty, representation, accountability and freedom of expression; And the three indispensable elements of democracy are the right to vote; Guarantee free, fair, competitive, multi-party elections and civil and political rights for the legislature and chief executive. Do the citizens of Bangladesh expect anything different than this?
The way to understand what form of democratic governance the citizens of Bangladesh want is to take the help of a previously conducted public opinion poll. In 2016, under a project by Rizlov (lead researchers — Ali Riaz and Christine C. Fair), we conducted a survey of 4,008 families from April 12 to 30, asking questions about democracy, among other things. In this face-to-face survey conducted nationally, we see that there is widespread support among Bangladeshis for some important principles of democracy. The survey cited four key features as indicators of democracy অধিকার property rights, elected representatives, an independent judiciary, and freedom of expression and assembly. Respondents gave the highest support to the right to personal property, with about 92 percent of respondents voting in favor. 63 percent said it was very important and 30 percent said it was very important. There has been close support for elected representation; 91% of respondents think that elected representation is a principle of democracy; More than 71 percent said the symptoms were very important and 31 percent said they were very important.
Democracy here has suffered a steady decline over the past three decades and is now on a downward spiral. In order to return from that path, it is necessary to understand what are the signs of democratic rule based on the principles of democracy and on the basis of which the democratic forces should determine their duties.
Among the symptoms of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of association are supported by 8 percent and 85 percent of the respondents, respectively. Respondents strongly supported the elected leadership. Fifty-five percent of respondents strongly support a democratic, secular leadership. Where 39 percent supported a democratically elected religious leader. The undemocratic leadership, be it secular or religious, has seldom expressed support for it. This result identifies people’s perceptions of democracy and signs of democratic rule. It may be recalled that the survey was conducted more than three years after the 2014 elections. The 2014 elections were not free and fair, but the importance of these elements to the people has not diminished. They still identify democracy with these features.
The results of our survey were not surprising, but they were consistent with previous surveys. In a survey conducted by USAID in late 2003, about two-thirds of respondents (72 percent) chose a government run by democratically elected representatives as the appropriate form of government. Among other options, the government, led by “respected religious figures, led by Islamic law,” received 21 percent support. Then there is the ‘government led by Karitkarma military leader’, which has 11 percent support. 3% support ‘unelected government led by experts, veterans and business leaders who know how to develop a country’. A decade later, the attitude was almost the same. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 80 percent of Bangladeshis support democracy, while 26 percent favor a “hardliner.”
In a survey conducted by USAID, respondents rated democracy as the best way to protect the rights and freedoms of the individual (69 percent), to ensure equal rights for all citizens (69 percent), to discipline and protect (69 percent), and to keep the country united. Percent) and to solve social problems by giving everyone the opportunity to express their concerns and aspirations (59 percent).
According to the Governance Barometer Survey Bangladesh 2010 (conducted by BRAC University), 80 percent of the respondents think that elections are the key to democracy. This is followed by free public debate (61 per cent), consent by consensus (60 per cent), participation in decision-making (50 per cent) and access to information on government activities (40 per cent).
A survey conducted by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) in 2000, 10 years ago, provided a list of respondents’ basic rights and asked, “How important do you think the protection of the following rights is in Bangladesh?” You can choose from multiple parties and candidates. Urban respondents, on the other hand, choose ‘regular neutral elections’ as the most important right.
Introduced the Pew Research Center in 2002 on the Signs of Democracy