Politicians and analysts have identified holding of a participatory election and fighting radicalization and extremism as major challenges for democracy as ruling Awami League completes its three years in power today (Thursday) after being elected in a controversial election boycotted by major political parties like BNP.
Hopes and challenges hovered over the horizon at the end of 2016. The time was rocked by major security incidents involving deadly terrorist attacks on foreigners and minorities.
Despite challenges, the government was successful to create stability and maintain economic progress by implementing some major development schemes in three years while BNP was at bay after failing to resist the election even after its boycott and resorting to a violent anti-government movement.
Awami League President Sheikh Hasina took oath of office of the Prime Minister for a second consecutive term on January 12 in 2014 on the basis of a two-third majority in the 10th parliament, at least 153 members of which were elected unopposed in the general election on January 5.
Ershad-led Jatiya Party, a component of the ruling grand alliance, took position both in the government as well as in the opposition in parliament after the election.
BNP backed by Jamaat-e-Islami started an unprecedented violent movement after one year. Nearly a hundred people were killed and hundreds were hurt by burn injuries amidst random petrol bomb attacks on public transport during the opposition's violent protest programmes in 2015.
In the face of growing conflicts and rising religious intolerance, can the country continue to demonstrate resilience to such security threats, ensure peaceful coexistence and continue practicing democracy is a big question?
However, the Narayanganj City Corporation election has given hope at the end of the year. The election demonstrated once again on December 22 that citizens can participate in an electoral process and prove that democracy exists in the country within its framework.
The latest NCC election has proved beyond doubt that Election Commission, if it wants to and also receives full cooperation from all the relevant agencies, can hold a free, fair and credible election.
In a rally to celebrate "Triumph of Democracy Day" marking the 3rd anniversary of January 5, 2014 Awami League Presidium Member Syed Ashraf said, "What has Khaleda Zia got by boycotting the elections? Had she thought that armoured cars coming from the cantonment would hand-over power to her? This will not happen anymore. One has to attain power through elections."
In response to it BNP Standing Committee member Khandker Mosharraf on Tuesday told the Daily Observer that their party wanted to go to power through election, not by any other means.
"But an environment for fair and inclusive election should be created to this end. Fair election is not possible under a partisan government. A powerful Election Commission and a neutral Election Time Government are necessary for this purpose," he said.
Responding to a question he said, "We are no longer talking about caretaker government. We will place a formula for Election-time Government at an appropriate time."
"In the meantime, we have placed our proposals for constituting a powerful Election Commission. We want to see how the proposals of different parties are reflected in the government's deeds," he added.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia sat with the President Abdul Hamid recently to talk about the formation of a search committee to find eligible persons and placed the proposals of her party.
Though the President has a limited capacity to decide in the parliamentary system, the BNP chief preferred to meet him rather than to meet the Prime Minister as a mark of typical rivalry between the two that plagues the politics, it is believed.
In view of this, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury recently advised BNP to deal with the Prime Minister instead of the President to meet their demands.
"I was a President and thus I know presidential power on formation of the Election Commission is limited. So we should talk to the Prime Minister to reach a decision in this regard," Badruddoza Chowdhury said in a programme on November 25.
"We should try to hold an impartial election-time government. If it is not possible, we can at least try to reach as close to the original demand as possible," he said.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had previously proposed BNP to take part in an all-party polls-time government but the party refused. Now BNP can talk about something similar," Badruddoza added.
However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently said that her party would accept the decision of the President regarding appointments in the Election Commission.
Jatiya Party Co-Chairman GM Quader sees the recent stands of Hasina and Khaleda as positive gestures and hope for democracy.
While talking to this correspondent on Tuesday GM Quader said, "A new environment has been created in politics. Both Awami League and BNP have come out of shells of obstinacy. I am optimistic about a solution."
Explaining the position of Jatiya Party he said, "Ershad is against a one-sided election. He thinks that it is not good to hold an election without the participation of a large section of the people. The dual policy you see in us was somehow imposed. However, we want to go back to our own stand."
Both Khondker Mosharraf and GM Quader explained the symptoms of radicalisation, intolerance and extremism as a result of the absence of democracy.
They said, democracy makes people accountable and evil deeds dwindle automatically. Lack of good governance, accountability, freedom of speech and politics and corruption are causing frustration and resulting in intolerance in the society. It is a further threat to democracy.
But Awami League's Joint Secretary and former Foreign Minister Dipu Moni does not see crisis in democracy. "A democratic system and democratic government is prevailing in the country. Democratic institutions like Parliament, Anti Corruption Commission and Human Rights Commission are functioning," she told the Daily Observer. "But certainly there are opportunities to improve on the practice of democracy," she added.
"All the political parties, excepting BNP-Jamaat, are practicing democracy. The activities of BNP and Jamaat are not only against democracy, but also against the people. The practice of hurling petrol bombs and burning citizens to death cannot be democratic," she said.
Dipu Moni said, "There was an environment for holding an exclusive election in 2014. But they did not come forward. Now efforts are on to hold election with the participation of all parties. It will be good if BNP participates in it. We will welcome. But the state and the democracy will not be waiting for them if they do not participate in the election in future."
Responding to a question she said, "Intolerance in the name of democracy is prevailing all over the world. This is certainly a threat to democracy. But the situation in Bangladesh is relatively better as people are coming forward to resist."
Social resistance is important. The evil elements should be abolished through educational, cultural and social movements to protect democracy, she added.