The 11th parliament had its first session on Wednesday with an assurance by the prime minister that the opposition would not face hindrance in the performance of its role in the parliament and that it would be able to criticise the government freely. These indeed are very appropriate articulations that underscore the fundamental requirement of a vibrant democracy and a functional parliament. But the question is: where is the opposition?
We understand that the JP(E) will assume the role of opposition in the 11th Jatiya Sangsad. And this is what makes the current parliament as unique as the previous one, because the party that will be occupying the other side of the aisle had participated under the coalition led by the AL in the election, albeit with its own party symbol. And last time it had the cake and ate it too. It held the same status in the last parliament that it has decided to take on this time, and the less said about its performance on the floor of the parliament, the better.
It bears repetition that the hallmark of a functional democracy is executive accountability, which only an efficient parliament and a vocal and active opposition can ensure. Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, we have witnessed the diminishing of the difference between the executive and the judiciary, with the latter being subtly subsumed under the former because of the very makeup of the parliament. And that makes for anything but an effective parliament and, even less, democracy in its true spirit.
However, we feel that this is an opportunity for the JP(E) to redeem itself and regain some credibility as a political party which it has lost in the last five years—tied to the government's apron string. We hope that it would fulfil its due role by imposing checks and balances on the executive in the greater public interest, and help in the legislative function through constructive, but sharp, criticism.