Partners in polls now in opposition
The Awami League and its Grand Alliance partners contested the December 30 election together, but the allies of the ruling party would sit on the opposition bench in the 11th parliament which begins its journey today.
The Jatiya Party, the AL's main partner in the Grand Alliance, will be on that bench.
The Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, components of the AL-led 14-party alliance, hinted that they would make constructive criticism about the government's various activities and policies.
Sources in the Workers Party and the JSD said it would not be possible for the opposition lawmakers from the Grand Alliance to act like real opposition MPs as they got elected with the AL's electoral symbol “boat”.
The Grand Alliance has 289 out of 300 parliamentary seats. Among the alliance partners, the JP bagged 22 contesting the polls with its electoral symbol “plough”.
Three MPs of Workers Party, two each from the JSD and Bikolpodhara Bangladesh and one from Tarikat Federation were also elected with the AL's electoral symbol.
Anwar Hossain Monju, the lone lawmaker from the Jatiya Party (JP-Monju), a component of the Grand Alliance, was elected with his party's electoral symbol “bicycle”.
The Jatiya Sangsad has 258 AL lawmakers. The number will go up to 301 after the election to 50 reserved seats for women. Under the constitution, 43 of the reserved seats would go to the ruling party.
The Jatiya Oikyafront bagged only eight seats -- six won by the BNP and two by the Gonoforum. The eight MPs-elect are yet to take oath as the alliance rejected the polls results alleging massive irregularities and rigging.
'FROM GOVT TO OPPOSITION'
After taking oath as MPs on January 3, members of the JP parliamentary party unanimously decided to be part of the new government.
The following day, JP Chairman HM Ershad, who was a special envoy to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her immediate past tenure, announced that his party would act as an opposition party in the new JS.
Ershad also declared himself as the leader of the opposition.
Since the restoration of democracy in the country in 1991, this parliament is going to have the lowest 22 opposition MPs.
In the 10th parliament, the JP with 40 lawmakers sat on the opposition bench, but it also had three representatives in the previous cabinet.
In the 9th Jatiya Sangsad, the BNP-led opposition alliance had 41 MPs.
Parliamentary affairs expert Prof Nizam Uddin Ahmed said, “There is no scope for the so-called opposition parties [Jatiya Party and others] to hold the government accountable to parliament as their lawmakers have been elected with Awami League's support.”
He said the JP and other parties would have no moral ground to act as real opposition parties as they are components of the Grand Alliance.
AL President Sheikh Hasina has been elected leader of the House for a third consecutive term. The 47-member cabinet was formed on January 7, with Hasina as the prime minister.
BUSINESS OF FIRST SITTING
The maiden sitting of the new parliament will begin at 3:00pm today.
At the beginning of the sitting, the Speaker and deputy speaker of the House will be elected and they will be sworn in by the president.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, some AL leaders said Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury was very likely to continue in her post.
They, however, said the PM was likely to pick a new deputy speaker.
The president, who addresses the first parliamentary session of a new year, will give a speech on the first day of the session. The cabinet has already approved the speech.
The Business Advisory Committee of the new parliament will be formed today with the new speaker as its head. The committee will decide the tenure of the inaugural session and other businesses of parliament.
The standing committees on different ministries are likely to be formed during this session.
Experts said the government will have to refrain from interfering in the functions of the crucial standing committees through which parliament can effectively oversee the activities of the executive branch and fight corruption.