Bangladesh is ruled by a multi-party parliament system or parliamentary democracy form of government. The President acts as head of state, whilst the Prime Minister takes on the role of head of government and holds the real power.
The Bangladesh Constitution interprets a “political party” as: “Political party includes a group or combination of persons who operate within or outside Parliament under a distinctive name and who hold themselves out for purpose of propagating a political opinion or engaging in any other political activity”. Basically political parties are the vehicles by which peoples come together freely to campaign for public office to win a majority of seats in a legislative body, to express their own interests and needs as well as their aspirations for the society in which they live in forming government.
There are about a hundred political parties in Bangladesh. The majority of these are minor parties. Five major political parties are active in Bangladesh. The party in power is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP. The BNP is more towards the conservative, right-of-center wing. Leading the opposition is the Awami League or AL. Beginning as a socialist group, the AL is now center-left. The Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal represents the left and socialist parties. The extreme right includes the Jamaat e Islami party and the Islami Oikyo Jote party. These two groups promote Islam in public life. Created by General Ershad, the Jatiyo Party (JP) leans toward holds similar ideologies as the AL and BNP.
Although the multi-party system is present in Bangladesh, thus it has a fading two-party or two alliances. It is very difficult for anyone to win an election under the banner of another party, which is not part of those two Alliances. Those two alliances are 14 Party Alliance lead by center-left Awami League and 18 Party Alliance lead by center-right BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and Islamist Jammat E Islami.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP
BNP was founded in 1978 by Major Genaral Ziaur Rahman, who was at that time was the President of Bangladesh under a military regime. The BNP has ruled Bangladesh for a total of 14 years and four terms since it was established (1978-1982, 1991-1996, 1996, 2001-2006). Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in 1981. Khaleda Zia, three times Prime Minister (1991-1996, 1996, 2001-2006) and the first female to hold the position is leading the party since then. BNP formed 7-party alliance in 1986. The alliance specially BNP gained huge popularity when they boycott the 1986 election held by military regime led by Hossain Mohammed Ershad, where Awami League also declared to boycott but later participated. That election was widely criticized as an unfair election. After the election, a nationwide political movement began demanding the resignation of President Ershad. Eventually Ershad resigned in December 1990. In a fair election in 1991 the BNP won the majority of the seats in parliament. On February 1996, the BNP held a general election, which was boycotted by all other major political parties on demand for an election under a caretaker government. The BNP won the election, though the parliament only lasted for a few weeks. After that BNP eventually transferred power to an interim caretaker government, which held the election three months later. In that election BNP positioned second. In 1998 BNP joined four party alliance, which won the 2001 election.
Awami League or AL
Awami League was founded in Dhaka in 1949, when it was the capital of East Pakistan, a former province of Pakistan. It was founded by Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, Shamsul Huq, and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. The party gained huge popularity in a very short time. Awami League led the forces of Bengali nationalism in the struggle against West Pakistan’s military and political establishment. Under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Awami League lead the struggle for independence of Bangladesh, first through massive populist and civil disobedience movements, and then during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. After the liberation war, which resulted as the creation of an Independent Bangladesh, Awami League won the first general election in 1973, but was overthrown in 1975 after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After that, several military regimes forced the party into the political wilderness. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the party lead by Sheikh Hasina emerged as one of the two dominant political parties in Bangladesh.
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal
A more significant socialist party in the late 1980s was the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party). This party began operating in 1972 after the defection of radical elements from the Awami League. It organized an armed opposition to Mujib’s regime in the mid-1970s and became very influential among the military during the late 1970s. The party also had some success in parliamentary elections and became important in labor unions through its action wing, the Jatiyo Sramik Jote (National Workers Alliance). By the 1980s, however, it had split into a number of factions with different strategies. The policies of one wing, headed by A.S.M. Abdur Rab, were almost indistinguishable from those of the Jatiyo Party.
Jamaat e Islami
Jamaat-e-Islami was created in 1941 in British India by Maulana Abul A-la Maududi. This party stood against the independence of Bangladesh and opposed the break-up of Pakistan. It collaborated with the Pakistani Army in its operations against Bangladesh (in that time East Pakistan). Its members, led the Shanti Committee, Razakar and Al-Badr paramilitary forces that were implicated in war crimes, such as mass murders, destroying and looting private properties, and rapes. Upon the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Bangladesh government banned Jamaat-e-Islami from political participation and its leaders went into exile in Pakistan. The ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami was lifted and its leaders were allowed to return in the Military Regime of Ziaur Rahman. In the 1980s, the Jamaat joined the multi-party alliance for the restoration of democracy. It later joined the alliance lead by the BNP,which eventually won the general election of 2001. Two Jammat Leaders became the ministers of that period.
Islami Oikyo Jote
Islami Oikya Jote was formed by Islamist Political parties in Bangladesh. It joined the four party alliances and participated in the 2001 election collaborating with them.
Government and Political Parties, http://www.bangladesh.com/political-parties/.
Leftist Parties, http://countrystudies.us/bangladesh/99.htm.
Md. Rajib Hasnat Shakil, Kaniz Marzia, Political Parties and Good Governance: Bangladesh Perspective, IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 8, Issue 5 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol8-issue5/E0853745.pdf.
Link : List of Political Parties and Symbols (Bangladesh International Election Observer Network)
Link : List of Registered Political Parties (Bangla) (Election Commission Bangladesh) – List of registered political parties with brief details and contact information