Bhutan: The six years old Democracy.

It has been only a half dozen years since Bhutan took her transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional democratic form of government. Within these years of transition, the citizens have witnessed a number of unprecedented events crafted in the history of Bhutan. A major political reformation has taken place through empowerment of people to elect their own government in pursuit of fulfilling their needs in return. With high hopes and expectations from the Politicians, people of Bhutan have pressed their fingers on Electronic voting Machine in 24th of March 2008 and 13th of July 2013.
The seed of democracy was sown in 2008 by Druk Phunsum Tshogpa( DPT) Government headed by 1st democratically elected Prime Minister, lyonchen Jigme Yoezer Thinley, after his party wining landslide victory over PDP ( Peoples Democratic party), headed by Ex Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Sangay Nidup. On 24th of March 2008, PDP has suffered unbelievable crushing defeat against Thinley’s party DPT, when the president of PDP was lost by vast margin of votes from his own constituency. Out of 47 seats in the National Assembly of Bhutan, only 2 seats were reserved by PDP candidate one form Haa Sombeykha constituency and other form Gasa Khaotoe Laya constituency. With no other options, the two members of PDP has instituted the world’s smallest opposition body in the country with huge duties and responsibilities shouldered to provide check and balance to the Victorian government in the interest of our beloved Kings, people and the country proudly known as Tsa-Wa-Sum. The first and the smallest opposition were headed by a young, dynamic and exuberant member of parliament Tshering Tobgay from Haa district.

 Along with the political reformations, the nation was shaken by number of natural calamities claiming the lives of many citizens. Just few months after the birth of democracy in Bhutan, the swelling Wangchu River has washed away the six precious lives of school children, the future asset of the Nation indeed. On 21st of September 2009, a seismic wave measuring 6.2 magnitudes on Richter scale has shaken the whole country with its epicenter spotted in Monagr region. Besides claiming lives of 11 people, the quake has caused severe damages to uncountable public infrastructure like, houses, chortens (stupa), lhakangs (monastery), schools, hospitals etc across the country amounting to Nu. 700 million losses incurred to the government.

 In the preceding years, we have also witnessed the Bumthang town being completely engulfed by fire twice within few months’ time and Wamrong town once in Tashigang District. The entire nation was shocked and deeply saddened in 2012 when historic Wangdiphodarng Dzong was completely raised to the ground by the fire. The significant edifice was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan in 16th century. Today this beautiful dzong (fortress) serves as a seat for Wangdi dzongkahg Administration and Rabdey.( Mnoastic body)The flash flood in Gasa and outbreak of fire in lhentse BOD (Bhutan oil distributor) had also emerged as headline news for BBS (Bhutan broadcasting Service), the only televised media in Bhutan and for many other print media of the country.

 After the institution of government by DPT under the wise and dynamic leadership and guidance of His Majesty the 5th king of Bhutan Jigme khesa Namgyal Wangchuk, the headlines on political reformation was never out of sight. In fact it has dominated the everyday headlines of BBS and other print media as well. The signing of constitution on 18th of July has feathered the young democracy adding a new chapter in the history of Bhutan.  The fascinating nature of political beauty was witnessed by the people of Bhutan, when two members of the opposition dauntlessly took the government before the court of justice on the basis of levying heavy tax on import of motor vehicles without an approval from the parliament of Bhutan. Indeed this first constitutional case has emerged as top stories in BBS and other print Medias. “We support the government in levying heavy tax on motor vehicles, yet we have serious of doubt in the implementation process and that is why we have forwarded the matter to high court of Bhutan” said opposition leader through BBS screen in 2010.

Finally the much awaited verdict was passed by the high court in favor of opposition. The verdict was passed based on unconstitutionality of levying tax by the government without an approval from the parliament. “It is not that opposition has won, rather people of Bhutan has won” said opposition leader in his interview with BBS radio. “We are deeply disheartened by the verdict of high court and it is the total miscarriage of the justice. With regard to direct taxation government is fully authorized by the constitution to levy the tax in the interest of the nation and I am pretty sure that my government has never violated any law of the kingdom” said Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigme Thinley through telephone interview with BSS, who is on tour to Bangladesh as a chair of SAARC in 2010. Bhutan has also witnessed by entire world, when it hosted the 16th SAARC summit at Thimphu chaired by Prime Minister of Bhutan.

 As expected by everyone, the first constitutional case was forwarded by the government to the supreme court of Bhutan responsible for passing the final judgment. The government was represented by Attorney general of Bhutan and the opposition was represented by MP Damcho Dorji of Gasa. His co-PDP member, the opposition leader was out of country for medical purpose in Thailand after his lower Jaw was fractured in bike accident while racing from Bumthang to Thimphu. The hearing was done for many times as per the judicial procedure. To my surprise the Attorney general has defended the government with pages of explanation on constitutionality of levying the tax by the government alone. However the two opposition members had never bunch an inch leading to the victory when the judgment was finally passed by the supreme court of Bhutan.

The verdict passed by the supreme court of Bhutan proved as an indigestible judgment to DPT government and the nation was filled with rumors, that the government was planning to step down from her power. For two consecutive days after the verdict passed by the supreme court of Bhutan, all the DPT MPs including the Prime Minister was fully engrossed in secrete meeting at Motithang in Thimphu.  During this course of time, many media personal has approached the government to undiscover their secrecy of meeting, yet government has never entertained and refused to appear in front of BBS camera and refused to comment on any matter. At last towards the evening of 2nd day, the prime minister has announced that the rumors were untrue and government has high respect for the judgment passed by the Supreme Court of Bhutan.

 Five years have just elapsed witnessing all those unprecedented events, sometimes shocking the nation, sometimes worrying the nation, and sometimes filling the nation with joy and happiness. The crowning of His Majesty the 5th king, to the golden throne of Bhutan in 2008, has marked stunning smiles on the faces of Bhutanese people and it has remained undiminished until today. Sublimes of smiles were crafted on the face of Bhutanese when the royal wedding was celebrated in 2011. Away from home, Thinley’s government has also strengthened our foreign relations by watering the existing ties with many countries including world’s oldest democratic and superpower country, Republic of India. Today Bhutan has unique and special relationship with 52 countries across the world. During her tenure of five years, the DPT has never left any stone unturned, the road were paved through length and breadth of country, thousands of rural houses were electrified, generating of power energy from Bhutan’s rushing rivers was always prioritized on the top as it was regarded as an engine of growth in Bhutanese economy.        

 After the successful completion of 10th five year plan, DPT government has stepped down from the power as mandated by constitution to contest for the next upcoming election. The preparation for 2013 election took place back in 2011, with an incubation of Druk Nyamrub Tshogpa, followed by Bhutan kenyam party and Druk chirwang Tshogpa.  The biggest obstacles faced by the political parties were not able to grasp the candidates from all constituencies followed by not having the suitable party leader to lead the newly born parties. In Bhutan many civil servants preferred to stay away from politics as they conceive nature of politics as dirty and filthy. More over there are around 10% of the Bhutanese who fulfills the required qualification and other norms to stand as a party candidate, as mandate by the law. Since Bhutanese modern education was started only in early 1960s, majority of her elder citizens were still barbaric in nature.

 In spite of many hindrances and hurdles for the political parties, 4 political parties were qualified to race the 2013 primary election. Sadly Bhutan kuenyam party could not make to primary round as she has no representative from Gasa District. Under the strict supervision of election commission of Bhutan, the campaigns by the political parties were in full swing across the nation, coupled with common forum debate among the candidates of the four parties, which was telecasted by BBS. Almost in all common forum debates, all the candidates has highlighted that it was the unwise decision of the previous government to borrow huge amount of loan and putting the nation into an unstable economy condition. Some of the candidates other than incumbent members have also shared their concern on worsening the economy of the country in last five years. Non incumbent candidates have informed the nation, that the former government has ushered the corruption in the country by indulging Government herself.

On 27th May of 2013, exactly after a month of campaign period, the pool day was welcomed by the voters and the nation has declared the day as Election Day. Many surprised things had happened on the evening of the pool day. PDP the world’s smallest opposition has won from 12 constituencies, DNT has won only from 2 constituencies kicking her out of the race, and the rest constituencies were won by DPT.  On the same day ECB has declared that Druck chirwang Tshogpa will be not entitled for campaign fund from the state in 2018 election, as she could not secure even 10% of the total votes. Vigorous and tireless preparations were made by both DPT and PDP to contest in 2013 general election. As expected by many Bhutanese people, the DNT has agreed to merge with PDP with some political reasons behind, nurturing PDP to emerge to as a strong opponent of DPT. On the other hand, DPT has raised their voice on illegality of merging the parties together. They have even questioned ECB on this matter, yet their petitions was proofed baseless by ECB based on election Act enacted by first parliament of Bhutan in 2008.

 Once gain the election campaign was in full swing. The debates between the candidates of two parties were live telecasted by BBS. Unachievable and unrealistic promises were made by both the parties. The kingdom’s struggling economy and ties with neighboring India were also key issues in the campaign.  As the pool day was getting closer, many voters have shared their willingness to support PDP through social media, print media and other modes of communication. The chief editor of “The Bhutanese”, Tenzin Lamzang tweets “The customers for my paper have alarmed ever more than before and when I actually examine the matter, I found that DPT supporters were burning my papers and preventing it to flow in the market”. There were also bewilderments among the voters circulated hither and thither. The topsy-turvy among the people was ignited by local party coordinators in trying to influence the voters to vote for their own party.

 Owing to auspiciousness of the day as per the Buddhism, which is widely practiced by many Bhutanese; the citizen of newest democratic country of the world went to polls on the morning of 13th July 2013. Once in the blue moon, the day was calm, serene and so silent, we can no longer see our farmers’ plouging their field with pair of Oxen, we can no longer see the police personnel waving their hands to control the traffic in the heart of capital city. On evening of the same day, the result for general election was live telecasted by BBS. To my surprise the super strong DPT has just won from 15 constituencies and the rest seat was reserved by PDP making them as ruling party for next five years. Today the government was in place, trying to stable our fragile economy, serving our beloved kings, people and the nation at the best of their capacity and ability. I have no doubt that the PDP government will be the best servant of Nation under the wise and dynamic guidance of his Majesty the 5th king of Bhutan. May peace and order prevail in the land of GNH and the people of Bhutan enjoy the everlasting peace and prosperity.  

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