Parliament Disappoints Citizens with Confused Opposition, Irrelevant Discussions: TIB

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) expressed deep disappointment with the state of the national parliament, pointing to an ineffective opposition and unproductive discussions as primary factors leading to citizen disillusionment.

These concerns were raised during a press conference held to present the findings of TIB’s research study, titled Parliament Watch 11th National Parliament: 1st to 22nd Sessions (January 2019 – April 2023), which comprehensively monitored and analyzed parliamentary sessions over the past five years.

Key findings from TIB’s research unveiled several pressing issues, including an ineffective opposition, often wearing dual hats within the greater political alliance under the ruling party. The opposition struggled to take assertive positions and hold the government accountable.

Moreover, parliamentary debates consistently lacked substance, frequently pivoting towards applause for the government and criticism of the opposition, diverting focus from pertinent issues. A significant amount of time was dedicated to discussing non-substantive matters.

In contrast to previous parliaments, less emphasis was placed on activities related to public representation. The quality of constructive debates and member participation experienced a noticeable decline.

Only a fraction of the parliamentary agenda was dedicated to budget-related discussions, with the remainder used for unrelated topics, lauding the ruling party, and denouncing the opposition.

On the other hand, parliamentary standing committees displayed a lack of seriousness and punctuality, often failing to meet the required frequency. Breaches of parliamentary code of conduct were not uncommon. A significant amount of time was lost in quorum crises, incurring substantial financial costs.

Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, TIB’s Executive Director, commented during the press conference, stating, “The deficits of effectiveness of the parliament are attributed to a continued identity crisis of the main opposition party coupled with the absolute majority of the ruling party, which has monopolized the space for debate and deliberations. As a result, the key mandate of the parliament to ensure accountability of the government to the people remains far from delivered.”

He added, “Time spent for law making continues to be much below the global parliamentary practice. We have observed instances where bills were passed in haste with minimal scrutiny and very little substantive debate. As a result, questions remain on the extent to which the enacted laws truly represent public interest.”

Regarding the inactiveness of standing committees, Dr Iftekharuzzaman added, “There is much to be desired about the effectiveness of the standing committees all of which failed to meet the mandatory requirement of holding at least one meeting a month.”

In response to a question Dr. Iftekharuzzaman added that one of the preconditions of an effective parliament is to ensure that Members of the Parliament are elected through a free, fair, inclusive and competitive election in a level playing field for which neutral, non-partisan and conflict of interest-free role of the election time government, Election Commission, administration and law enforcement agencies is indispensable.

Furthermore, TIB unveiled 13 recommendations aimed at improving parliamentary functionality. These recommendations encompass critical changes, including an amendment to Section 70 of the constitution to make parliamentarians more independent. A comprehensive list of recommendations and detailed findings can be accessed here.

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