Democratic ideals in the 2013 debates

An important aspect of the presidential public debates so far, is that most parties are promising, if voted to power, a strong and genuine democracy. Parties have also talked about ensuring that the people will not have to fear their government. They have also talked about strengthening transparency, fighting corruption, and promoting the Right to Information (RTI).

The above has been mentioned and stressed on by all political parties except for the incumbent party –the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, which has either avoided mentioning it or given it only an occasional mention.

The DPT has instead, been aggressively focused on speaking about its rural infrastructure work, and highlighting its vision of doing more if re-elected.

In fact, whenever other parties like DCT, DNT and PDP have raised issues on democracy, transparency, and corruption – the incumbent DPT has taken on a defensive stance.

One example is in the first presidential public debate where the incumbent Prime Minister and DPT party president was at odds with other party presidents on RTI. While all three party presidents support RTI, the incumbent PM talked about the dangers of RTI, and how it would hamper the work of the government.

In the same debate, the DPT president was on the defensive on the Gyelpozhing case. Unlike other parties, he also attacked the media, and went after a young audience member who questioned the DPT on corruption staining its candidates and image, and how such an example might not go down with the youth.

A similar tone from DPT was evident in the second presidential public debate too.

There is a good reason to this peculiar structure of the two party debates so far. While the DPT in the last five years of governance has counted on its work in the rural infrastructure, as its key strength to re-election, it has also come under the charges of autocracy, in-transparency, and corruption.

The incumbent DPT party must realize that while it is important for the government to focus on developmental works, the same is true that there is more to being a government than just a contractor.

The disappointing fact about the incumbent party is that it has not learned from its lessons in the last five years and appears to be heading for a similar style of governance for the next five years if re-elected.

The incumbent party despite having taken a hit in its credibility due to a rash of corruption scams has enlisted candidates in its party that would raise many eyebrows. Its defense on corruption issues has been as usual to lash out and point out non-existent conspiracies.

There is little or no indication that it will change its unique style of governance where actions are carried out first and consultations later.

It is particularly interesting to note that all other parties have mentioned that if elected people under their governments will not have to fear the government. This is an indirect charge that the last five years of the incumbent government has been one where people have had many reasons to fear its government.

The incumbent government has been accused of not strengthening democracy but in fact weakening it by showing a high degree of intolerance for dissent, criticism or even a different point of view. In short an autocratic and dictatorial style of governance.

For a democracy where criticism is very vital the government has placed its critics in various categories of fools, good for nothings, dangerous people, opposition supporters and even anti-nationals.

Worldwide, Right to Information has been or is being adopted by progressive governments to fight corruption, ensure good governance, and people’s empowerment with telling effect.

However, the DPT which promised RTI before the end of its term has become its biggest enemy by advocating more on its debatable dangers than its positive aspects.

For an incumbent government whose finance ministry refuses to share the annual budget detailed document with the media, or a Prime Minister’s Office that refuses to release the details of the expenditures on foreign trips, has set poor examples in promoting transparency.

The other important issue picked up by all political parties, except the DPT is on strengthening the media.

Here again, the DPT has been on the defensive as it has violated the tender and procurement rules and also the basic values of freedom of press to subjugate, and silence critical media.

The DPT party president’s contention that his government tolerated the media, and if it had hit back then the media will not stand bear such a response, is incorrect. The government has, in fact, gone after the critical elements in the media, using its political and financial means, including the entire government machinery.

The only reason why the government has not taken the media to court for big corruption stories is for the simple reason that they are facts backed up with evidence.

Everybody makes mistakes and in most instances, they can be forgiven after they are willing to mend their ways, however, it is an entirely different issue for someone determined to repeat his or her mistakes.


“Democracy is not just the right to vote, it is the right to live in dignity.”    

Naomi Klein

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  1. “The only reason why the government has not taken the media to court for big corruption stories is for the simple reason that they are facts backed up with evidence.” Take that JYT and DPT cronies. Do you have answer to this? 

  2. Shameless prado tshogpa, how proudly they could announce their manifesto as if they have achieved their 2008 programs astonishingly. I seriously doubt, to reduce poverty, instead increase their property…so forget the rest. Whatever they did so far, particularly the farm road has been on a surface level, just pleasing to catch eye of an innocent famers around the country to gain vote, down the line they don’t care, instead their own happiness & self enrichment. “DPT’s guiding principle”.

  3. The Final Showdown for 2013 General Election for me should be between PDP and DNT. DPT should rest and introspect the people’s feeling on what they did in 2008 to 2013. DCT is manned by too many young candidates, so let them mature.

  4. DNT getting through the primaries is very very impossible. its going to be PDP and DPT for sure. Lama at pang ri Zampa said it. DCT and DNT will be out . BKP was goin to be out anyways. so they will have saved a lot of expenses. DCT , DNT and BKP should strategise for 2018. 

    • If BKP had passed through the primaries,then, they had strong forces &potentials to compete eqaully with rest of the 4 four poltical parties.Anyways, all three new political parties including BKP requires lot of homeworks on de-strategizing their party governance, scoping of Logos, manifestos, longterm visions/goals and more importantly they should skim the candidates based on experineces, maturity, qualifications like work experineces in the governance systems,public programs, past experiences relevance to public service delieveries, atleast caddidates should be the knowing at heart all the Constututional Acts of the Kingdom of Bhutan. 1/3 of the candidates should be above 40 years who have served above 10 years at the managerial levels in policy, planning, public programs, activities, NGOs and International developmental organizations.

  5. DPT is surely to win and DCT is surely to lose. So, it is between DNT and PDP for the opposition seat. If that does not happen, Bhutanese will make fool of themselves.

  6. I guess the difference is DPT has had the opportunity to govern and therefore has deliverables to talk about. 

    The other parties can only sing songs that might hit a chord with the public and thus get them to relate to them. But one must analyze the practical limitations and feasibility before making promises. 

    I think the RTI question has been misquoted by the press. RTI does not give media the right to demand any document of the government. In fact it limits what the media and the public gain access to. RTI will require all documents to be classified thus ensuring that matters of national security etc. are not made public. Such an act would require extensive exercise within the government. That is all agencies would have to classify all documents to operationalize RTI. How do you ensure that it is done properly? Its very easy to say that we will implement this act in parliament, but how does it translate on the ground. We have already seen such problems with the tobacco act. A fairly simple act can entail such problems and you think the RTI will be an easy one?

    Saying the right things and trying to repeat what we think the people of Bhutan wants to hear is the most political aspects of politicking in Bhutan. We need a political party that can also govern and bring to fruition the promises made or else the country would have lost 5 years and the developmental momentum that our beloved monarchs have achieved will be all but lost.

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