Vote against the party and development of democracy are very important concept in parliamentary government. In Bangladesh in the year 1972 our constitution makers incorporated Article 70 which is designed to prevent floor crossing in the parliament. But it hinders development of pure democracy and encourages dictatorship.
Democracy means power of the people. It is regarded as a form of government in which the people rule themselves either directly or indirectly through their representatives. If the representatives have no power to vote against his/her party, though the will of the party is malafide, it does not mean democracy. It brings nothings for the country.A fundamental aim of the State is torealize through the democratic process to socialist society, free from exploitation-a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens.If the parliamentarians have no power to say about the people right going against the party to be afraid of losing his membership. He cannot ensure people rights.
If a parliamentarian votes against his own party, the incident is called floor crossing. It may also said, floor crossing means to resign from one party and to join another party. So by inspecting we can say, the term floor crossing means,” voting against one’s own party in the House or parliament during the time of voting.”
So, the freedom or liberty of the ministers chosen by the people has been taken away by this law
The constitution makers incorporated in Bangladesh in the year 1972 “Article 70 which is designed to prevent floor crossing in the parliament. This was an anti-defection or anti floor crossing law”
This law actually hinders the institutionalization of the parliamentary government. The primary objective of the parliamentary government is that the government is accountable or devoted to the legislature. So, the executive is always not sure whether he is going to be backed up or not and therefore it always tries to feel the rhythm of the members or tries to be more receptive. But, under the anti-defection or anti floor crossing law the government and the executive is in a place from where they can enjoy dictatorship, as there is none from the government to protest or vote against. As a result, the government as it is not going to be answerable to any of the members or legislature it can pass any unethical bill which can be harmful to the country and there is none to object or vote against.
But, we need to know the reason behind designing this law in the constitution of Bangladesh in 1972. In this essay, the background of this law, the Article 70 law, its drawbacks and the reality of Bangladesh politics and some recommendations will be discussed in brief.
As we go down the road of floor crossing in the then East Pakistan then we will know the grounds behind the Article 70 or anti floor crossing law. Before the liberation war when Bangladesh was used to be a state of the then Pakistan it was seen that members were allowed to cross the floor for their own interest. The lack of education and politically insensible people has crossed the floor. “Whenever something happened in the party which has hurt someone’s own interest he was used to cross the floor. It was a regular practice in the then Pakistan. This practice made the parliamentary system unworkable here”.
Due to political factionalism in Bangladesh a frequently quoted statement is “One Bengali is one party, Two Bengalis two political parties; and three Bengalis, two political parties with dissident faction in one of them”
The absence of consistency and poor position of harmony among the members of the parties were the result of personal concern, conflict of interest, personal bias etc. Some members did not attend party meetings because lack of power. The floor crossing occurred even because someone’s spoiled relatives were sentenced or not given any good work. There are hundreds of examples of such instance.
The name of a member was not incorporated in the local relief committee so for taking vengeance he defected or crossed the floor.
“In the name of a school secretary and not in the name of the member of the locality money for flood affected people were sent, so a defection or floor crossing occurred”.
Out of urge some of the members crossed floors or did not attend part meetings.
A member felt that enough consideration in the Party was not given to him, so he defected or crossed the floor.
“A member was caught due to black marketing and he looked for help from the Chief Minister. When he did not get the help, he crossed the floor”.
The coalitions and lack of agreements in between the year 1954-1958 and the self-interested nature of the members actually made point for creating the Article 70 of 1972.
ARTICLE 70 under the Constitution of Bangladesh:
The Article 70 was established to check floor crossing. The disorder of the past and unfeasible conditions created by the members of the parties motivated to ascertain this provision. Under the 1972 Constitution there were mainly two conditions against floor crossing:
If a member resigns from his party.
If a member votes against his own party during voting time.
But added two more conditions were added in the 4th Amendment to it to reinforce the law against floor crossing. They are:
If a member doesn’t take part in voting even though he is present in the parliament.
If a member goes against the will or direction of his party and does not attend the parliament at all.
Two more conditions were added in the 12th Amendment. They are:
Within one political party no one can form a group
“If one elected member joins any other political party then it is the violation of Article 70”.
COMPARISON OF FLOOR CROSSING IN OTHER COUNTRIES
There are quite a few examples of floor crossing which helped to establish democracy
This policy helped ANC party in South Africa, few other parties also gained seats this way. According to their policy t if an ANC MP in the National Assembly needs to cross the floor, he or she would require to depend on 30 other MPs to do the same. The small parties had difficulties doing so as they did not have that much of colleagues backing them up. Still they have the opportunity to practice floor crossing and raise their voices against dictatorship
We can also look into Germany and Brazil. Germany was given an option that is vital to bring into the argument of European experiences, and Brazil was elected as part of South–South exchange and experience learning. Lesotho has worked on a mixed member proportional (MMP) system from its 2002 general elections. According to the rules of MMP, floor crossing in parliament is allowd “only in relation to MPs who were elected by the constituency-based ballot and not those elected through the party-list proportional representation (PR) compensatory mechanism”. Malawi and Zambia have from their independence worked on the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system.
During these days, the British-type FPTP system gives permission to floor crossing as members of parliament are considered each characters representing constituencies even if they belong to significant political parties. South Africa operates the PR system. Floor crossing taking place in parliament is not common in countries that practice PR system, the underlying principle being that PR would not be agreeable to floor crossing as “it is premised upon party lists rather than on individuals representing constituencies.”
So here democracy can be established in oppose of dictatorship through floor crossing
EFFECTS OF ARTICLE 70 IN BANGLADESH:
A) Contradiction among the MPs:
It is not allowed by the MPs to vote against party’s undemocratic decisions or object to it according to Article 70. But, in reality there is no rule against providing their suggestions in the party meetings that is set by Article 70. As because a lot of MPs do not have a proper idea on this article and do not have the courage to talk even in the party meetings. It creates such a position the good outcomes of democracy are yet to be achieved. “Many of them said in the 5th and 7th parliaments that Article 70 is authoritarian”. But why there are no steps to modify the law or to eliminate it that is still a big question. The question against the knowledge of these politicians also arises as they are not even conscious of the total purpose of Article 70. So the legitimacy of the MPs is kind of conflicting.
B) Lack of responsibility and scope of dictatorship:
It is certain that there is scarcity of responsibility and huge chance of autocracy of the government in the parliament of Bangladesh. A parliamentary government should take each and every initiative assessing the characteristics of the members of the legislature to evade loosing on the floor. This norm is called the duty of a government and a dutiful government has got two main uniqueness, they are: Individual duty to the ministers and collective duty of the cabinet. But there are no requirements in Bangladesh to perform the individual duty. However there is a provision of Article 55 where the fact is stated that the cabinet has collective duties to the parliament. But, in reality Article 70 actually gives opportunity to the government to run away from this responsibility too as the cabinet is certain and secure from loosing on the floor by motion of confidence or no-confidence. Because according to researcher Halim, “no member of the majority party can vote against his own party”. So, Article 70 is allowing the government not to be dutiful and transparent to the parliament and it is also giving opportunity to the government sufficient space to perform autocracy.
C) Hindrance in the practice of rule of law:
A situation where there will be opening of discussion over a bill should be created by the rule of law. The rights to argue or debate on a proposed issue or over a proposed bill should be given to the MP’s. But, the members of the ruling party are not allowed to do this practice as Article 70 prohibits it. So, in the end no matter how improbable or undemocratic the bill is it is permitted and conceded without any difficulty. So, according to Mr. Nazrul “basically the Article 70 is making the members a puppet. Most of the times in our country the ordinance is made a week before the parliament session and in the parliament it is only approved. No debate or argument or legislative actions take place at all. So, we can never expect the rule of law to flourish under this circumstance”.
D) Contradiction in the system or constitution:
Parliamentary government is followed in Bangladesh. According to the design of parliamentary government, the government is supposed to be accountable to the parliament or legislature. On the contrary, under the presidential government, government is not accountable to the legislature. But it is seen that according to Mr. Halim “Article 70 is blocking the system of being responsible to the legislature, so in Bangladesh we are actually not practicing the parliamentary government system. So we are in a position which contradicts with the actual Parliamentary government spirit”.
FLOOR CROSSING LAW IN BANGLADESH: FAVORABLE OR UNFAVORABLE
How floor crossing law evolved, how it became a part and parcel and how it is causing hindrance the development of the parliamentary government and checking the implementation rule of law, has been illustrated already. Now the question comes if it creates a lot of troubles and obstacles to achieve democracy and Parliamentary government system then why are we not eleminating it. There were 14 Amendments of our constitution. But the initiative to change or remove this law was not taken by any of the government or political parties. The two-third majority vote is needed to change or remove this law and not too often we see it probably be a reason behind that. But, Bangladesh Awami League came in power in the year of 2008 with more than two-third seat. But still we can’t see any march towards eliminating or changing this law.
The fact that many MPs said that they are often in confusion whether to stand against the party’s decision or not because of Article 70 is already mentioned. As they don’t have the backbone to talk freely in the party meetings even.
Another motive can be the earlier experience or the history of the then East Pakistan. It is been enlightened before how in 1954-58 the advantage of floor crossing was distorted and exploited. The inclusion of floor crossing laws in the constitution of 1972 was based upon that incident. So, perhaps the politicians are scared to witness such situation another time and therefore not eliminating this law.
The last but not the least motive can be the politicians are pleased with this law. Because, under this law they can indulge into authoritarian system which can never be questioned. The Executive is not responsible to the legislator or parliament under this Article 70, so if a party wants to pass a law which is not democratic he has the authority to do it. There is no chance of the executive getting overpowered on the floor.
There can be many reasons for not modifying or eliminating the anti-floor crossing law, but steady and successful government system is always more important than the system this is what we believe. In Bangladesh politicians becoming corrupted, greedy and exploiting power among the political people are common phenomena. So, get rid of the law will be unrealistic in terms of Bangladesh to eliminate this law. Eliminating this law may ignite another unfeasible situation and the government may fall and no stability which we witnessed in 1954-58 maybe taking places once again. So, the prevention of floor crossing is needed for the effectiveness of the government.
But according to me, a few modifications are necessary in Article 70. I think the Article 70 should allow voting on motion of confidence and money bill or passing the budget. A budget or money bill is not necessarily connected to the stability of the government.
It is not assumed only altering this law will make the parliament lively and effective, but at least it will help us to achieve a firm government system as well as implementing rule of law and democracy which is vital in order to have a efficient government. By modifying this law the government will not fall and still there will be some implication of rule of law.
Ministers and political Parties, who are aware of the responsibilities to the legislation and dedicated to the duty parliament, are very much cherished by the common people of Bangladesh. That is why the Article 70 or anti floor crossing law is not needed at all. But, we all know that the political environment of the country id very much turmoil, so things would not change overnight. So, this law cannot be removed straight away. But, It is believed by us that we need to remove this law in order institute the rule of law and to witness eventual strength of Parliamentary government. As this is not achievable in real life, at best we can hope to change it a little the way I advised in the recommendation part so that a minimum democracy can be achieved. I will also make sure that the prestige and dignity of the MPs steps up to another level if these modification. It can also be the milestone to be a more successful government.
See, Halim, “CONSTITUTION,CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND POLITICS:BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE.” pp.176-178.
See, nazrul, “Article 70 and the future of parliamentary government” pp.1-3
See, Baxter, Craig, Government and Politics in South Asia, 2nd edition. P-248.
 Khan, AtaurRahman, Two Years of Chief Ministership, (in Bengali), p. 176-203
See, Halim, “CONSTITUTION,CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND POLITICS:BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE.” P.187
 See,Halim, “CONSTITUTION,CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND POLITICS:BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE.” pp.178-179
See “Law of floor crossing”, available at http://www.knifecrimes.org/the_law_of_floor_crossing.pdf retrieved on 29th May, 2012.
 See “Member of The Parliament, as a separate legal entity”, available at http://www.smh.com.au/memberofparliament -20090619-cnsh.html Retrieved on 29th May,2012
 See, Halim, “CONSTITUTION,CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND POLITICS:BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE.” P-180.
 See, Moudud, Bangladesh : Era of Sheikh MujiburRahman, p-108.
 See, Nazrul, ““Article 70 and the future of parliamentary government” pp.1-3
See, Halim, “CONSTITUTION,CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND POLITICS:BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVE.” P-179.
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