Bangladesh is a unitary state and parliamentary democracy. Direct elections in which all citizens, aged 18 or over, can vote are held every five years for the unicameral parliament known as Jatiya Sangsad. The parliamentary building is known as the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban and was designed by architect Louis Kahn. Currently the parliament has 345 members including 45 reserved seats for women, elected from single-member constituencies. The Prime Minister, as the head of government, forms the cabinet and runs the day-to-day affairs of state. While the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President, he or she must be an MP who commands the confidence of the majority of parliament. The President is the head of state but mainly a ceremonial post elected by the parliament.
However the President's powers are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker government, which is responsible for the conduct of elections and transfer of power. The officers of the caretaker government must be non-partisan and are given three months to complete their task. This transitional arrangement is an innovation that was pioneered by Bangladesh in its 1991 election and then institutionalized in 1996 through its 13th constitutional amendment.
The Constitution of Bangladesh was drafted in 1972 and has undergone fourteen amendments. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court. Justices are appointed by the President. The judicial and law enforcement institutions are weak. Separation of powers, judicial from executive was finally implemented on the 1st of November, 2007. It is expected that this separation will make the judiciary stronger and impartial. Laws are loosely based on English common law, but family laws such as marriage and inheritance are based on religious scripts, and therefore differ between religious communities.
The two major parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). BNP is led by Khaleda Zia and traditionally been alled with Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and Islami Oikya Jot, while Sheikh Hasina's Awami League aligns with leftist and secularist parties. Hasina and Zia are bitter rivals who have dominated politics for over 15 years; each is related to one of the leaders of the independence movement. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military dictator Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era. Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and student leaders have been elected to the Parliament.