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21 May 2018   07:47:58 AM   Monday BdST A- A A+ Print this E-mail this

Leadership change in political parties

Moslem Uddin Ahmed

Inheritance and elective succession

 Which is the ideal way of leadership change in political parties is a moot question that came to the fore once again--with two choices in for a comparative value judgment. The two broadways are inheritance by consent of a party`s rank and file and elective succession by ballot at party council. There is, albeit, a third style of succession, too, in world political arena. And that is deposing by application of force by de facto power that be. The third course of change at the helm is best elucidated by what came clear as jumping the queue to break the line of inheritance in Saudi Arabia in cent times. Prince Mohamed bin Salman, as reports have it, virtually overpowered his father, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and overthrew his cousin from the line of succession to the throne. The Economist and many world press outfits fondly dubbed it `palace coup`. This is, however, a byway usually taken in world`s leftover monarchies. Its copycat is military coup used to be practiced in third-world nation states with weaker forms of governance. The two other conventional modes of leadership change in polities are common worldwide--along with merits and demerits associated with either. In Bangladesh, as a matter of fact, leaderships of major political parties have run the line of inheritance that is termed dynastic in political parlance. Analysts point out that the Awami League in post-Mujib era, the BNP in post-Zia period and the Jatiya Party of HM Ershad have, practically, taken this path. However, they all have given the process of leadership determination a semblance of election in a democratic method by eliciting `consensus` of the councilors. Nothing doing--no alternative has emerged in the current course of politics. Not that there have not been bids made for revolt and breaking away from the cycle of what a section of political analysts often dismiss as `dynastic` politics. But all of them ended up as zero, not hero as change-maker. A major factor seen here is charismatic characteristics of leaderships upon which these parties have grown and run, as is stated in some analyses of politics of the day. As such, a descendant of the party icon turns out to be a sine qua non to hold the party unity after the towering leader`s demise or retirement or sidestepping. This is not a country-specific case. It happens in Bangladesh, so does in India and Pakistan in South Asia, and also in the developed capitalist country like the USA as well as in socialist country like Cuba. The Bushes put an end to inheritance in leadership of the Republicans and Hilary`s unmerited rout by Trump precluded its repeat in the Democratic Party. Cuba`s was a one-off case that concluded with Rahul`s abdication to one who is neither heir to Fidel Castro nor to him. India, at the next door, does carry on the `Gandhi dynasty` in Congress leadership. The Congress, however, set an instance of separation of power and party in terms of leadership last time when Sonia Gandhi showed the highest degree of nicety staying back in Congress presidency and catapulting Manmohan Singh to the `throne Delhi` as premier. Putting Bangladesh`s political affairs in this broad canvas, a few analysts try to study the merits and demerits of political-leadership patterns over here. The buzz began with the leadership reshuffle in BNP in the wake of party chairperson Khaleda Zia`s imprisonment and transfer of the current charge to her son, Tarique Rahman, who is also not present in the political arena at home. He has been in London in a sort of self-exile since having been banished from Bangladesh following the 1/11, 2007 episode. Many leaders, including top ones, of the ruling Awami League make a dig at the former ruling party over this change in leadership. They say the BNP is suffering from `bankruptcy` in matter of leadership. In their turn, BNP leaders point their finger at their political archrival over the same question. The latest flurry of talks at talk-shows centre around Prime Minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina`s quip to her party leaders who came to greet her on the 37 anniversary of her homecoming from exile: `…look for a new leader of the party. How long-it`s 37 years since I had to take the helm`. True to the reasons elaborated upon, by one voice all her faithful said `no, no` in spontaneous response. Maybe, say observers, this could a bear an undertone of what is termed political rhetoric. But there are suggestions from very senior ones that, for the sake of more effective run of governance and party leadership both, there should be separation between the head of government and head of the party. "This could also give a sound shape to internal democracy in party," says Prof Syed Anwar Hossain, a former scholarly teacher of Dhaka University, in his regular on-air analysis of political affairs. Another retired scholarly teacher of the varsity, Prof Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, likes to relate the state of democracy in Bangladesh to what he calls lack of `intra-party democracy`. However, choosing leadership for the parties which rule Bangladesh by turns is seen by many a long way off, as maintaining internal unity and cohesion overwhelmingly depends on the unifying spirits that, up till now, come from their revered chiefs. --

Originally published in The News Today

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