Bangladesh's political scene has been tumultuous since independence. Periods of democratic rule have been interrupted by coups, martial law, and states of emergency.
There is a proverb in Bangla which loosely translates into: If you have two Bengalis you will have three political parties.
Present set up: There are 5 major political forces in the country. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies form the right-of-center to conservative grouping in Bangladesh. The party is currently in power in Bangladesh. The current opposition is led by the Awami League (AL), which initially saw its birth as a socialistic organisation but has now transformed into a center/center-left political stream.
The extreme right or left, while not supported by a large fraction of the populace, are typified by having very dedicated followers.
To the left are the pro-Soviet Bangladesh Communist Party, factions of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, and other socialist groups advocating revolutionary change.
To the right is a group of parties, including Jamaat e Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote, who call for an increased role for Islam in public life. The fifth major pary, founded by ex-military ruler General Ershad, the Jatiyo Party (JP) is ideologically not too different from the AL or the BNP but operates independently.
There is a singular lack of tolerance in the political system where the major opposition parties are often at violent loggerheads. Trade-unions and student wings mirror the political inclinations of the parent parties.
Bangladesh is a democracy with a parliamentary form of government. Its multi-party political system has a single chamber Parliament, the Jatiya Sangsad, with a total of 300 members and another 30 reserved seats for women.
Democracy is one of the four principles of the state enunciated in the Constitution. The system of governance is built on the separation of powers of the three branches of the government: executive, legislative and judicial.
President: The President is the head of state and is elected by members of Parliament for a term of five years. In exercise of all his functions save only that of appointing the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, the President acts in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. Any citizen of Bangladesh of at least 35 years of age is qualified for election as President.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet: The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive of the government. The Cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister and comprises such other ministers as the Prime Minister from time to time may designate.
The Cabinet is collectively responsible to Parliament. The President appoints as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament who commands the support of the majority members of Parliament.
Legislature: The Constitution gives all legislative powers to the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) which consists of 300 members elected from territorial constituencies by direct election. The Jatiya Sangsad is summoned, prorogued and dissolved by the President on the advice in writing of the Prime Minister.
The Jatiya Sangsad is also vested with such powers as initiating constitutional revision, deciding on the budget and ratifying treaties. Tax is levied or collected under the authority of an Act of Parliament. The validity of the proceedings in the Sangsad is not questionable in any court.
Judiciary: The Judiciary consists of the lower courts, the district courts, the High Court and the Appelate Division of the High Court which is also known as the Supreme Court.