Deepening democracy- an important concept

A two-day seminar on the imperative of deepening democracy and education was organized by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) in Thimphu. The seminar concluded yesterday at Hotel Phuntsho Pelri.

The guest speaker at the opening ceremony, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye said the seminar marks the power of idea and the power of democracy. He added that democracy brings hope and freedom to many people and creates a proper environment for the development of one’s personality and good habit.

He said, “Bhutan adopted democracy in 2008, it has passed the first cycle and in the future, it will be tested more with the change of time. The Constitution has three constitutional goals that ensure for significant time to contribute to social and political stability without disturbing them, and governance to pursue goals for the nation. It must maintain peace and stability in the changing times. During the last five years, the Constitution of Bhutan endured the first of the three goals. It must now contribute the second goal of social and political stability without disturbing them and the third goal is to pursue governance of the nation.”

Lyonpo said the first democratically elected government was reminded of moral epithet enduring the Constitution through the first constitutional case. “Unseen future and unknown situations demand constitutional vigilance. We, Bhutanese, can learn from the world and strengthen a democracy of our own, and we hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he added

A professor at the Stanford University, Martin Carnoy talked on the increase of democratic regimes over the last three decades worldwide. Democratic governments, he said, have to serve the needs of all citizens or they can lose legitimacy.

Professor Martin elaborated on the minimalist theory of democracy which he said is the version of democracy that spread to Latin America and Asia in the past years. “In such case, elections take place regularly, there is a relative separation of powers and vigorous freedom of expression,” he said.

He also highlighted on Institutional and personal trust, political parties and strengthening the democratic system. He pointed out a major debate about whether trust is a product of a highly developed civic culture that improves the quality of democratic institutions, or on the contrary, it is the quality of democratic institutions that develops a deeper civic and institutional trust.

With regard to political parties and strengthening the democratic system, Martin said a common phrase in political theory is that there can be no democracy without political parties, and most people interviewed in democratic countries are aware that political parties are an essential element in democracy.

“Deepening democracy means extending the rights of all individuals in the society to participate in the political process, the protection of those rights in fair and just way by the rule of laws designed to be fair and just, and access to information and local structures of participation that allow local communities to protect their interests through mobilization and political action,” Martin said.

He added that for a deepened democracy to be effective, every democratic nation’s citizenry has to be educated and informed on the pressures, conflicts, and the externalities of events elsewhere, in order to make intelligent decisions that will serve their interest.

The officiating director of Royal Education Council, Chencho Lhamu briefed the seminar on the economics of education in global environment. She said education gives happiness and there is equity in educational opportunities in Bhutan.

BCMD was established in 2008 to nurture a culture of democracy by strengthening media, expanding public discourse, and providing essential training and education for key persons who will have a direct impact on Bhutan’s democratic transition and the creation of democratic institutions.

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