Wednesday, 17 September 2014


“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” said Winston Churchill on why democracy is the best form of government. While this argument may sound true, people had to struggle and make sacrifices to overthrow tyrannical and despotic leaders to usher in democracy. It is the opposite here in Bhutan. Democracy in Bhutan was the greatest gift to the people from the golden throne with His Majesty, the fourth Druk Gyalpo as the architect of instituting democracy in the country.

Today, we are in the seventh year after the maiden parliamentary elections in 2008. The election results of the second parliament elections can be construed as how much root democracy had already taken in the country. This is a good indication and a sign that democracy, which was bestowed on the people by the monarch himself with faith in the abilities of Bhutanese people, is bound to succeed in the long run.

For the people, who always had benevolent monarchs for the last one hundred years, the uncertainties of what entails democracy was accepted with initial apprehensions. However, in the last seven years of the democracy in Bhutan, people not only enjoyed smooth transition of governance but have also enjoyed continued peace, stability and an accelerated pace of development in the country. Suddenly, there is real feeling among the people that, democracy is indeed good for the country.

In the aftermath of the first parliamentary elections, the pace of development accelerated and there was a visible sign of progress everywhere. Almost all the basic infrastructures were put in place within the five years.

And then it was time for the second parliament elections. People voted for change expecting the new government to achieve even higher grounds from the standard set by the previous government.

A good beginning has been made but, there are certain shortcomings in election rules, both for local and the parliament that people wish to see amended.

The delimitation for local government was one such area that left many people disgruntled in the last local government elections. While the fortune of small gewogs did not change, the large gewogs felt they were shortchanged. And rightly so, today, some chiwogs are bigger than some gewogs.

Functional literacy test (FLT) was another frivolous exercise for local elections. The FLT, if at all necessary must have been for an aspiring lay person to prove his basic functional literacy proficiency. The lack of clarity meant that even university graduates and seasoned civil servants had to attend the FLT if they aspire for local election, which is ridiculous.

And at the ground realities, it served little purpose in many instances. When the FLT became mandatory, many good people backed off. In some remote chiwogs, compromises had to be made to make some ineligible candidate eligible to participate in the election or risk not having a tshogkpa at all.

 At the national level while qualification requirement of a minimum of a degree to be a member of parliament is laudable, the question is whether educational qualification alone makes a candidate capable to be a leader? There are capable, outspoken and knowledgeable people but without degrees to their names who can make good leaders.

With deliberations in parliament in Dzongkha, some representatives from non-dzongkha speaking regions are stumped by their limitations in spoken dzongkha thus limiting their participation in important deliberations. How do we address this? Perhaps proficiency test in spoken Dzongkha may be necessary even for the educated people. The parliamentarians may be active behind the scene but, their active participation when the laws were being enacted and bills passed is what really matters.

Laws on merger of parties or defection of candidates must be clear or else we can save cost by going for one general multiparty election.  The shortcoming of the election law was obvious when candidates from one party joined the other in the last election.

People say that, one multiparty general election will allow electorates to choose capable candidates across party lines. Even one elected member in the parliament from one party can take a different stand while ensuring survival of that party until the next election. Some say that in two party elections, some political parties will never be able to progress beyond the primaries hence limiting choices.

Democracy is all about good governance and transparency. Transparency comes through openness and free flow of information. And information must be made available to the masses through media like radio, television and newspapers.

Supporting media and allowing them the freedom of expression will only strengthen democracy in our country. Government of the day must ensure vibrancy of free media to keep playing important role of informing the nation at all times. Media in Bhutan needs support to survive to be able to play its role. Vibrant media can only strengthen democracy and this is how our democracy will be assessed by the international community.

The stakes are high for our democracy to succeed. Since democracy in Bhutan is the gift from the throne, we must ensure that we don’t fail to live up to the expectations of Their Majesties the King and the beloved Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Democracy also has to live up to the aspirations of the people to ensure people’s confidence in elected government. People will expect politicians to deliver their promises. Anything less will be hard to accept and they will certainly express subtly through ballot.

Gyembo Namgyal

NB: This is an article contributed to Bhutan Observer’s BO Focus publication commemorating democracy day.


  1. Democracy infact is a good form of government if it goes well but curse if it happens out another way...Nicely written Gyembo sir...thanks

    1. Thank you dear sir, I am glad you never misses to read and comment, keep reading and commenting, you really are a hardcore blogger.

  2. Transition to Democracy in Bhutan was smooth and unique one. It can voluntarily from the throne despite resistance from the public. It's a stark opposite of what happens in other countries. This gift must be humbling, cautiously and responsible handled by every one of us. We are lucky citizens in deed. Nice read Gyembo sir. Thanks.

    1. Rightly said Sangay sir, and thanks again for your comments. You are another ardent blogger. Keep going and have a good time.

  3. I read this article on BO Focus. Very insightful and helpful for me. Keep writing Gyembo.

    1. thank you my friend Riku, thank you for reading and commenting. i hope to keep my writing going on, so keep reading too. take care and have a good time.