Bhutanese skeptical of new set-up, King says all will be well
As Bhutanese people witness the tribulations of party politics less than a fortnight after overwhelmingly voting for democracy, their former ruler has assured them that the new set-up is designed to suit the nation.
"The introduction of democracy is not for the benefit of a few political parties and politicians. It is for Bhutan and it must serve the nation long after we are gone. We must keep this in mind and begin the work of ensuring its success," King Jigme Khesar Namgyal told an audience here of over 400 people from Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Thimphu areas.
The people told the King they had not expected democracy to bring so much doubts and suspicions and that a parliament with only a two-member opposition would greatly harm democracy and the nation.
Some of them said the democratic process might have been introduced too early, as "villagers moved from one party to the other and were swayed by whatever that was said to them".
Terming the apprehensions of the people at this stage in the transition as "natural", the King said people have been always serving the country and will do so irrespective of which political party they belong.
"It should be remembered that democracy in Bhutan was not based on any other country but designed to suit the people and the nation," Namgyal said.
There was some drama last weekend with the two MPs of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) resigning from the National Assembly in protest against "foul play" resorted to by the winning Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party. But a couple of days later, Tshering Tobgay and Damcho Dorji decided to withdraw their resignations and sit in the opposition.
The DPT led by former premier Jigmi Thinley had swept the March 24 vote winning 45 of the 47 seats.
"Our people's love for our country, our unique culture, our tradition of consultation and consensus building and stable political environment make Bhutan an ideal nation for a vibrant democracy," the monarch said.
Namgyal expressed complete confidence in the people's commitment to building a strong democracy saying it was evident from the successful conclusion of the general elections.
He said democracy must be built over decades by generations of Bhutanese.
"Today's steps were the first. These steps must be taken by the bureaucracy, the judiciary, National Council, National Assembly, the private sector and all Bhutanese with dignity and in the spirit of unity and common purpose.
"If democracy succeeds, the nation wins," the king said.
The chairman of Bhutan's Constitution drafting committee has said that the voice of the PDP can in no way be suppressed in the Parliament.
Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye said the Constitution has enough checks and balances to prevent a such a situation.