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Under such conditions, the institution of patronage rapidly consolidated itself as a dominant form of political practice within the state, severely hindering the development of an independent professional bureaucracy with the capacity of to devise an implement policy. Within patron-client networks, loyalty to the ruling party trumps any real investment in state activity other than its use to further the interests of the party in power, thus contributing to the slowness of capitalist development and to continuing political instability. The result is that Bangladesh has moved during the two decades since democracy was established in 1990 from being a “minimalist democracy” with regular elections, peaceful transfers of government powers, a guarantee of basic freedoms and civilian control over institutions and policy to become an “illiberal democracy” (BRAC 2009: xv). Political and legal institutions are subject to partisan politics, and state power is misused for personal or political gain. Politics has become a competition to control the state in order to serve partisan interests within a “winner-takes-all” system. The accountability mechanisms required to provide systemic checks and balances seen as more effective political strategy than negotiation. Problems of weak law and order enforcement, regular defaulting on loans, a deterioration in the quality of administration, the politicisation of the education system and pervasive corruption were all once seen as simply as regulatory issues. Today as Sobhan (2004: 4101) argues this has now “hardened” into a severe structural problem “embedded in the social and political forces which govern the distribution of power and influence”.

p. 107-8, David Lewis, Bangladesh, 2011.