The disruptive nature of the Bangladeshi political process was the result of a lack of consensus as to national direction even among the major political forces. In the late 1980s, for example, the Awami League viewed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party as a military-based faction that climbed to power over the bodies of Mujib and his family. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party saw Ershad's regime as the usurper of Zia's legacy, and both the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jatiyo Party feared a return to socialism and the anti-military stance of the Awami League. Meanwhile, the radical left and the Islamic-oriented right held diametrically opposed views of social organization. Observers believed that any one of these groups, if it were established in power, would do everything it could to eliminate its rivals.
Control of the political process and its resources is a life-and-death proposition for vast numbers of poor people in the urban slums and villages of Bangladesh, and in many cases crucial political decisions, such as local elections or major parliamentary votes, precipitate massive violence. In the midst of this struggle for existence, politicians of all persuasions publicly advocate democratic freedoms but exhibit authoritarian viewpoints and high levels of distrust for their colleagues. Within their own parties, leaders such as Hasina and Khaleda Zia have often behaved in a manner as dictatorial as that for which they have criticized Ershad. In addition, factional divisions have been a constant feature of party life, as political opponents excluded from decision making have "headed to the streets" with their followers. The call for a restoration of democracy, echoed by all groups out of power, therefore has seemed to be a call for a political opening through which one of the opposition parties could seize power. Unhappiness with this state of near-anarchy has kept the military in power and attracted many middle-of-the-road politicians to a strong executive that could control political competition.
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