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Why are we still continuing with a 'viceregal' political system? - Rounaq Jahan

Eroding democratic values and Constitution - Dr. M Zahir

Democracy: An unfinished agenda - Dr Kamal Hossain

A case for proportional representation - Rashed Khan Menon

Is majority rule same as democratic rule? - Kazi Anwarul Masud

Responsibilities of majority rule - Muhammad Zamir

The issue is democratic culture - Emajuddin Ahamed

Leaders and politicians - Mohammad Badrul Ahsan

Black money in electioneering - Inam Ahmed

Party nomination on sale - Rezaul Karim

The tale of limping parliament - Reaz Ahmed

Politicians hindering progress - AH Jaffor Ullah

Whither parliamentary standing committees - Shakhawat Liton

Politicians must take blame for failures - Syed Ashfaqul Haque


Antagonism takes precedence over understanding Shakhawat Liton

Thirteen years of democratic experience: Strengths and weaknesses Reaz Ahmad

Distorted political culture Shameem Mahmud

Party constitutions: Rarely followed Rezaul Karim



Party nomination on sale?

Rezaul Karim

Constitutions of political parties in Bangladesh have the provision of parliamentary board to nominate candidates for their respective parties in Jatiya Sangsad polls or any other elections. The provisions as described in the party constitution are democratic, but the parliamentary board has become an eyewash these days. In practice, it is seen that the decision of the party chief is final regarding nomination of candidates. The nomination system has become corrupt over the years and it is no secret that nominations were sold for crores of taka in the past three elections.

As per the Article 13 of BNP Constitution, the party will have a Parliamentary Board for nomination for parliamentary polls and any other elections. The party's National Standing Committee (NSC), the highest decision-making body, is the Parliamentary Board. The NSC comprises of 15 members. The party chief will be the chairman of the board.

It provides that president, first three vice presidents and general secretary of a particular district will be considered members of the Parliamentary Board during selection of candidates of the districts at the time of interview of nomination seekers. But if anyone of them (president, first three vice presidents and general secretary) seeking party nomination for election cannot attend the parliamentary board meeting as member during the interview, the board will be responsible for nominating party candidates for parliamentary and any other polls, and the decision of the board will be considered final.

Before the election, the BNP sells prescribed application forms from the party central office and the aspirants write down detailed particulars in the form and submit it consideration within a specific date. The parliamentary board evaluates the applications during the interview of the nomination seekers. Each application form was sold at Tk 5, 000 during the last general election.

The parliamentary board of the Awami League is formed to nominate party candidates for all national elections. The board comprises of 11 members. The president and general secretary of the Awami League and deputy leader of the Awami League parliamentary party will be the ex-officio members of the board while remaining eight members will be drawn from among members of the party central working committee.

President of the party will be the chairman while general secretary will be the board secretary. The parliamentary board will carry out all works related to the election and is empowered to take any measure to prepare election programmes. The board will send copies of the application forms to the district unit working committees for the candidates. Then the district and upazila units will send details of the respective district's nomination seekers like qualities and popularity rating along with their assessment to the parliamentary board. The decision of the parliamentary board will be considered final.

Both the parties after days of interview of all party nomination aspirants declare candidature and give nomination through a formal letter. The candidates then submit a copy of the party nomination to their respective district's Returning Officer to inform that his party has given him/her the nomination for allocation of the party's polls symbol.

It has been witnessed in past three general elections -- 1991, 1996 and 2001 -- that a new trend has developed in the political parties which sell nominations to financially affluent people or businessmen. This trend is gradually increasing as the two major parties are giving nominations to a section of people, who are contributing huge amounts of money to get nomination without having any political background.

Political sources said several business magnets got nomination from the BNP in 1991 polls by taking the advantage of shortage of competent candidates in many seats. Finally, it was found that most of those non-political but financially solvent nominees came out successful in the polls. As the number of MPs is crucial under the parliamentary system , the two major parties have put great emphasis on parliamentary seats and are not hesitating to give nomination to the affluent, regardless of how they have earned money.

The parties have apparently given maximum emphasis on 'seat politics', which is now being considered as a negative impact of parliamentary democracy. It has also been observed that people having a long political background failed to get party nomination because of their financial weakness.

Political observers say that the 7th and 8th Jatiya Sangsad witnessed serious quorum crisis in each session and delay in starting a day's affairs due to the absence of MPs with business background, as they remained busy with their own business. The businessmen-turned- MPs are busier with their business than parliament . A senior political leader of the ruling BNP has commented that the day is not far away when the businessmen and people of hazy background will dominate the Sangsad and state affairs. "Already, the number of genuine politicians has decreased drastically in the current parliament and this number might reduce further in 9th Jatiya Sangsad polls in 2006", the leader observed.

According to the sources in both the BNP and Awami League, the parties sold 40 to 50 nominations each in the last parliamentary elections held on October 1, 2001 and each nomination was sold at a cost of up to Tk 5 crore!

A section of retired civil and military bureaucrats are also buying nominations and entering politics. In many cases, the retired officials are joining in politics for nomination ahead of national election, apparently to protect themselves from future trouble.

Sources said that the fund created through selling nominations is distributed among the candidates, who are locally popular and have possibility to win election but do not have the money, to meet their polls expenditures. Sources said even senior members holding important positions in the party standing committee or presidium also do not hesitate to take money from the party to meet election expenditure. Sources at the parties said that the family members and relatives of the party leaders and stalwarts are also getting a handsome portion of the funds being created through selling nominations.

Political leaders said that selling of nomination has now become a profitable business and a group has been developed in both the parties by the close aides of top leaders, who manage and control selling of nomination. To make money, the said group members in many cases pursue rich people to take nomination and they even compel the party leadership to change nominations of party leaders and then give those to the rich people.

The author is senior reporter of The Daily Star.

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