Role of military dictator’s Jatiya Party in Bangladesh politics


Following a recent trip to India, GM Quader, the chairman of Bangladesh’s Jatiya Party (JP) and younger brother of former military dictator Hussain Muhammed Ershad, addressed reporters on his return, shedding light on India’s perspective on Bangladesh’s political future. Quader stated, “India has significant investments in our country. Thus, India seeks a transparent electoral process for the upcoming government in Bangladesh. They advocate for a peaceful electoral environment without violence or instability”.

Although GM Quader refrained from revealing specific individuals he had engaged with during his Indian visit, he disclosed, “I’ve had discussions with several important figures. However, I cannot disclose the details of these conversations”.

While many perceive the Jatiya Party (JP) as inconsequential in Bangladesh’s political arena, historical evidence suggests otherwise. Despite being deemed irrelevant, the party managed to secure 35 parliamentary seats, approximately 12 percent of the votes, just a few months after its founder, General Ershad, was removed from power through a massive movement. In 1996, JP formed a coalition with the Awami League, obtaining 32 seats and 16.41 percent of the votes. In 2001, it secured 14 seats, garnering 7.25 percent of the votes. In the 2008 elections, the Jatiya Party joined the grand alliance and won 27 seats with 7.04 percent of the votes. In the 2014 elections, amid 153 uncontested seats, JP secured 34 seats with approximately seven percent of the votes. Subsequently, in 2018, as an ally of the Awami League-led 14-party grand alliance, it clinched 22 seats.

Analyzing JP’s seat acquisition from 1991 to 2018, a pattern of significant fluctuations emerges. In 2014 and 2018, it secured 34 and 22 seats, respectively, signaling a substantial decline. Another noteworthy shift is that JP is preparing to contest an election without its founder, Hussain Muhammed Ershad, who passed away. GM Quader, possessing lesser political experience compared to Ershad, currently leads the party.

Internal divisions within the party have become evident, particularly following Ershad’s demise in 2019, as conflicts between Ershad’s widow, Raushan Ershad, and his brother, GM Quader, surfaced. While some experts acknowledge these internal factions, it is argued that beneath these divisions, the Jatiya Party remains united in their ambition to maintain relevance in Bangladesh’s politics. It’s pertinent to note that the party lacks a substantial voter base or widespread support to secure a majority in any Bangladesh elections, which are largely dominated by two major parties: the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Surprisingly, the third position is not held by the Jatiya Party but rather by Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).

A pivotal question arises: Can Jamaat-e-Islami, an unregistered party with the Election Commission, participate in the forthcoming general election? If not, where might the Jamaat-e-Islami’s supporters cast their votes—towards BNP or JP? The ideological boundaries between Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP, and JP are blurred, as all three advocate for an Islamist Bangladesh. General Ershad, the Jatiya Party’s founder, altered the country’s secular nature by designating Islam as the state religion. Some analysts suggest that Ershad aimed to transform Bangladesh into an Islamic republic, resembling Pakistan’s Islamic framework.


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