Nizam Ahmed, "Parliamentary Opposition in Bangladesh: A
Study of its Role in the Fifth Parliament," Party
Politics, 3 (April 1997), 147-168.
One of the (three) great milestones in the development of
democratic institutions is the right of an organized
opposition to appeal for votes against the government in
elections and in parliament (Dahl, 1966: xi). (Her
Majesty's) Opposition, as Lowell observes, embodies the
greatest contribution of the 19th century to the art of
government (Wheare, 1968: 79). The quality of performance
and leadership which the opposition provides has a major
bearing on the quality of politics as a whole (Emy, 1978:
383). It publicizes the implications of policy, identifies
the issues for debate and ensures that the government, when
trying to fulfil its demands, does not take short cuts which
undermine the basic 'rules of the system' (Emy, 1978, 383).
The rules require that certain fundamental questions, such
as the regime and the form of government, remain outside the
party fight (Wheare, 1968: 80). These also require that
while the government is to be allowed to get its programme
through, the opposition must be given all reasonable
opportunities for criticizing the programme (Richards, 1978:
59). Although the government and the opposition in western
democracies often try to keep each other at arm's length,
the two nevertheless mostly agree to abide by the general
rules of the system.
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Numerical strength of government and opposition in
Table 2: Background characteristics of MPs in the fifth JS
Table 3: Experience in party politics (%).
Table 4: Political affiliation of MPs (%).
Table 5: Demand-type motions (except questions) discussed in
the fifth JS.
Table 6: Promises extracted and implemented (%).
On the whole, it can be observed that parliamentary
democracy in Bangladesh worked in the context of widespread
government-opposition suspicion towards one another's
motives and intentions. Accusations and counter-accusations
abounded, and both also distrusted each other to a great
extent. Yet notwithstanding these defects, the opposition in
the fifth JS played a more pronounced proactive role and
also succeeded in providing some checks on the unbridled
exercise of power by the government. The latter, despite its
suspicion of the opposition's motive, was nevertheless more
tolerant of its role, at least compared with the past. The
sudden withdrawal of the opposition from the fifth JS could,
however, be seen as a retrograde step, discouraging the
growth of a stable pattern of parliamentary politics in