Locating Bangladesh in the Democracy Index 2023

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The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has been publishing a global report on the state of democracy in the world since 2006. Despite methodological debate, the report has achieved widespread global recognition for making a host of observations on the health of democracy or political systems in countries from North to South and East to West.

It focuses on five major components in assessing democracy, for that matter, democratization in a state. These are apparently inclusive and comprehensive which cover entire gamut of political, social, and administrative processes in a country. The components include: a. electoral process and pluralism, b. functioning government c. political participation, d. political culture, and e. civil liberties. Based on these components, the Democracy Index 2023 was published in January 2023. The 2023 Report has included 167 countries and territories for assessing democracy and eventually ranking them globally. It may be mentioned that these components are intimately linked with liberal political ideology in contrast with socialist models. The 2023 report has identified Norway at the most democratic while Afghanistan is the least.

Democracy as one of the oldest forms of political unit, cultural artifact and social organization has always draws attention, especially in the western world. It has influenced their political processes and many of these powers embraced democracies in their domestic contexts while they maintained highly repressive colonial orders in their conquered territories from Africa to Americas for centuries. The slavery system in the United States of America was abolished in 1865, women came under universal suffrage only in the 1920s and blacks in South Africa were allowed to vote in the 1990s. Still the world celebrates the Magna Carta in England 1215, and the American Revolution 1775-1783, and the French Revolution 1789. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949 are also the global events that have advanced the world in every aspect.

The 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh is another landmark event in global history to advance democracy in the post-colonial societies. The sacrifices of Bengalis led by Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman throughout 24 years of colonial exploitation by the Pakistani rulers mark biggest aspirations for liberation and emancipation. Reversing the autocratic rule and discriminatory policies of Pakistan, Bangabandhu instituted a democratic polity with a dream of creating a prosperous Bangladesh (Sonar Bangla). The tragic and heinous assassination of Bangabandhu on 15 August 1975 Bangladesh plunged into incurable political crisis. With the advent of military rule and communal politics, Bangladesh lost its way and suffered from chronic political instability, political violence and polarization for decades. However, over the past decade, the Sheikh Hasina government has reversed the decaying society, economy and political environment through establishing stability and predictability in the nation. Bangladesh is now a rare example of growth and prosperity and leadership in the developing world.

– Delwar Hossain, PhD is Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and the founder of the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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