Bangladesh Nationalist Party

Published 20th January, 2014

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP was founded in 1978 by the then President Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman. The party describes itself as Centre-right and believes in Economic liberalism and Bengali nationalism.

In the elections of February 1979 the BNP won 207 of the 300 seats in the Jatiyo Sangshad or National Parliament. President Zia was subsequently assassinated in May 1971in a coup attempt and was succeeded by Vice-President Abdus Sattar who won the November 1981 presidential election.

A year later, in November 1982, Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad seized power and the BNP along with the Awami League (AL) went into opposition and formed the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD).

In early 1984 Khaleda Zia succeeded Sattar as the leader of the party. The party subsequently boycotted the 1986 and 1988 general elections and was involved in strikes and demonstrations which eventually saw Ershad resign in December 1990. Fresh multi-party and democratic elections in February 1991 saw the BNP taking 140 of the 300 seats in parliament. Khaleda Zia was subsequently sworn in as the country’s first woman prime minister.

In May 1994 the AL decided to boycott parliament and started fresh strikes and demonstrations in an attempt to bring down the BNP government. Elections held in February 1996 were boycotted by the Awami League and the BNP won all 300 seats in parliament. Continued civil unrest led to a second election that year in the June and the AL won 146 of the 300 seats and Sheikh Hasina formed a coalition government.

In 1998 the BNP walked out of parliament and started its own series of strikes and demonstrations to bring down the government. In fresh elections held in 2001 the BNP won 193 seats and the AL was reduced to 63 seats.

By now the political rhetoric between Khaleda Zia of the BNP and Sheikh Hasina of the AL had become bitter. The BNP leader was accused of being behind an assassination attempt of Sheikh Hasina in August 2004.

In accordance with the constitution the BNP resigned in late October 2006 and a caretaker government was put in place. Despite civic unrest the caretaker government worked to meet the 90 day deadline to hold an election, but in early January the Awami League decided to boycott the election.

On 11th January 2007 the military stepped in and established a fresh caretaker government which then spent a year rooting out corruption, leading to the trial of more than 160 people. A general election was eventually called in late 2008 and the BNP was reduced to just 30 seats in the Jatiyo Sangshad or National Parliament.

Fresh elections were held on 5th January 2014 but only after months of strikes and demonstrations. In 2010 the Awami League, with their big majority, had abolished the concept of a caretaker government made up of technocrats to run the general election campaign. The BNP objected and started a campaign of civil disobedience. The elections of 2014 were boycotted by the BNP along with 20 other opposition parties and the Awami League was returned to power with 230 of the 300 seats in parliament.

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