Keynote Address on “Rethinking Democratization: Consensus Building for Results” By Zillur R. Khan Chairman, RC 37, International Political Science Association (IPSA), Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, and Adjunct Professor, Rollins College, USA; Distinguished Fellow, PRI, Bangladesh, and President, Bangladesh Foundation,

Over the centuries Democracy has become a better form of government than others, in spite of its complexities and setbacks in different countries. In shaping a stable and secured governing system humans have often chosen leaders capable of advancing public interests. Here I seek to utilize the Aristotelian framework to rethink democratization, focusing on justice in advancing public interest by balancing power-cum- authority with legitimacy. John Rawls, the most respected political philosopher of the 20th century, echoing Aristotle defines justice as basic fairness in multidimensional interactions between humans and their institutions. The purpose of such varied interactions is to balance democracy with a striving for security (John Rawls, 2003:3-102.). Implicit in it is a social contract inspired by the fairness principle which contributes to societal stability. A consensus building process through “Dialogue”, the basis of civilization as Thucedydes underscored in his classic History of Pelopennesian War could evolve through public-private policy forums and projects jointly sponsored by government, professional-occupational and civil society groups. For sustainable development through consensus building other ever-expanding electronic outlets could also be strategized to help reduce the gap between security and freedom. Such engagements should facilitate the implementation of policies, relatively perceived as corruption-free and fair. First, Bangladesh is unique in different respects. It is the third largest Muslim Majority nation, but its origin is not rooted in any religious ideology. History bears witness that the struggle for justice in preserving the identity and culture of Bengalis culminated in a successful people’s war against Injustice by internal colonialism of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Second, it is a highly homogenous nation without the conflict generating issues of tribes, clans, and religious schism, which have been adversely affecting peace and stability of most other Muslim majority nations. This is a cultural advantage the leadership of Bangladesh must utilize through a consensus building process in promoting a sustainable democratic governance. Third, justice is the glue that binds the people for advancement. For Bangladesh this glue needs to be strengthened. In the classical definition put forth by Socrates in Plato’s Republic Justice consists in giving everyone his due, which still holds true. Particularly on this historic day of March 7, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman must be given his due as the founding father of Bangladesh, which has been rated to become one of the eleven top emerging nations of the world. His ideals of nationalism: pride in one’s culture and identity; democracy: majority rule but protecting minority rights to advance Bengali nationalism; secularism: (inclusive rather than detached) respect all religions in advancing national interests through spontaneous participation of all in democracy; and socialism: without prejudicing any religion for equitable allocation and distribution of national wealth would certainly advance the greater interests of Bangladesh. Fourth, in order to assure the main opposition party a meaningful role in parliamentary deliberations, an important institutional change could be considered through a “Shadow Cabinet” model, ensuring the participation the main opposition party in governance. Fifth, without the involvement of all of the stakeholders, the “Winner-Takes-All” (WTA) electoral system has resulted in boycotting parliamentary deliberations by the opposition, undermining the democratizing process. As a starting point, a change in the electoral system may be tried in randomly chosen constituencies, replacing WTA with proportional representation (PR) whereby allocation of parliamentary seats will reflect the percentage of votes earned by contesting political parties in the general election. This could help clarify the fairness principle in both representational and electoral justice. Japan has successfully combined WTA with PR in its Lower House (Diet) of Parliament. Sixth, the ruling party must realize the issue of political legitimacy when the second largest party chose not to participate in the last general election, resulting in more than fifty percent seats of Parliament filled uncontested before the general election. Rethinking democratization demands that the voter mandate given in the landslide victory of the ruling party in 2008 election should be fulfilled. What was that mandate? Justice to the “Absent” through War Crimes Trials, corruption fighting, consensus building for sustainable development, which in voles infrastructal reforms needed to hold a violence free and fair elections in which all eligible voters will be motivated to vote. Seventh, violent extremists must be contained using the iron hand of the rule of law. As well, a broad based education system must be implemented focusing on religious tolerance and mutual respect. Under tremendous pressure from the Bangladesh civil society and political leaders of most political parties following terrorist acts committed by militant religious extremists during 2004-6, Maulanas affiliated with government Madrassas issued a religious statement based on the Koranic verse which forbids killing of innocent persons in the name of Jihad. Such a rejection of the Jihadist terrorists drastically undermined their support among the God fearing people, resulting in quick detection, arrests and trials of most Jihadist masterminds during 2005-006. Now is the time for another consensus building “Fatwa”, reinforcing such values of Islam as tolerance, respect for other religions, truthfulness and the higher Jihad (Jihad-al-Akbar)---the struggle to become a better Muslim by self improvement and helping others. This would help contain violent religious extremism. As well, implementing curricular reforms proposed by Dr. Muhammad Kudrat-e-Khuda in 1973 could be vital in transforming the mindset of Madrassa students, particularly Qaomi Madrassas financed by oil-rich Wahhabis of the Middle East. It would certainly help to broaden their horizons and appreciate democratic values of mutual tolerance of opposing ideas, accommodation and compromises in search of common grounds for problem solving and conflict resolution. This would make them more competitive in the job market. It would also help neutralize their opposition to womens' empowerrment. Lastly, political prties need to democratize themselves internally through elections at every level. And aspiring party candidates should first face their constituents in primary elections for their respective party nominations. Following successful nominations they should be expected to clarify their positions on various issues and problems by engaging in dialogues and deliberations. The following is a sample of issues they could deliberate among themselves, and then share the results via radio, TV and other electronic media. It would promote transparency and accountability needed for any democratizing process. • For institutional checks and balances on power, should the Parliament have two houses, with one checking any excesses of the other? • Considering the size of population, seventh largest in the world, should Bangladesh increase the size of representation in Parliament, say 500 in the Lower House (Assembly) and 100 in the Upper House (Senate)? • Should a coalition government formula be adopted through proportional representation where each coalition partner could exert checks on others? • Should issues of national interest be put on referendum to be voted in special elections? • Considering the deep mistrust between the two largest political parties, should the next general election be conducted under an elected interim government composed of elected leaders from two largest parties with their top leaders serving as co-chairs? • How to empower the National Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election? • How should the constitutionally mandated institution of Ombudsman be implemented? • To ensure unobstructed communication between public and private sectors, should representatives from professional-occupational organizations be allowed to participate in parliamentary and bureaucratic deliberations, respectively at the committee and department levels? There is tremendous potential in Bangladesh. In spite of recent political dysfunction and violence Bangladesh has the distinct privilege of leading both India and Pakistan on Human Development, particularly in life expectancy, infant mortality per 1000, under age 5 deaths, maternal death per 1000 live births, infant immunization, and female literacy. The ball, now, is in the court of the political leaders. A viable socio-political-economic alternative to the current situation could emerge internally when the political community and the civil society make a deep commitment to public interest. Paraphrasing Plato, one could assert that “good” lies in striving for the “ideal”, knowing full well that the ideal may never be reached. But the efforts to find a common ground stand a better chance of achieving a mutually acceptable compromise in the greater interest of a highly promising nation of the 21st century.