During the seminar on lessons learnt by the five political parties on their ten-day study tour to Denmark on June14, the five party representatives, despite their political differences, shared similar experiences, the feeling of being Bhutanese first.
One of the panelists, the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) President, Lily Wangchhuk, said while Denmark and Bhutan appear different in many aspects, but there are also some similarities between the two countries as small kingdoms that made peaceful transition to democracy and promoting the well-being and happiness of the people.
She said, Denmark has a long history of being a democratic nation, over 140 years, where they faced many challenges and made extensive mistakes along the way. She said that over the years, Denmark has realized what works and what doesn’t work for them.
In the case of Bhutan, she said, “We are still grappling with the changes and we are going through our share of challenges with experiences, ill and good of democracy as well.”
Likewise, she said Bhutan will also take its time and will make extensive mistakes along the way as the democratic system settles in. “I believe Bhutan has a choice, Bhutan has a choice to avoid the mistakes as well,” Lily Wangchhuck said.
She said there is a need to open more dialogue that is open to constructive criticism, encourage more dialogue among political parties and related stakeholders, and the need to be open to international perspective.
The People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) General Secretary, Sonam Jatsho, said Denmark is the world’s happiest country and is a close friend and one of the important donors in Bhutan. He said his tour to Denmark was inspiring for him as he learnt how to deal with corruption. “Democracy and corruption cannot go together and they really mean it when they say zero tolerance to corruption, and that is something Bhutan needs to learn from Denmark,” he added.
He also shared that the culture of democracy celebrate and embrace democracy in Denmark, especially their Constitution Day. He said the communities, and not the government, come together to organize small gatherings attended by different political party leaders where they talk and make close connections with people.
In addition, Sonam Jatsho said it was interesting to know about the meetings organized by the people and hopes such gatherings can be done in Bhutan as well. He said he also learnt that political parties in Denmark go on a sort of retreat to a faraway place in an island for about a week to talk about democracy and to reflect on their country’s future. They also invite the world’s political parties, media, and civil society organizations to such a gathering to think about their future and what they can do to strengthen their democracy.
He shared that the politicians and political parties in Denmark work hard to put their people and national interests first.
“Other thing that Bhutan needs to learn from Denmark is with regard to taxation, how people are so happy to contribute high (taxes) and they know that they are going to get something back and that is meaningful and going to be shared among everybody in the country,” the PDP General Secretary added.
When it comes to the economy, he said Denmark has a vibrant economy with intensive agricultural farming and make huge export. “They are also very progressive and one of the few countries gone very far, in terms of renewable energy, and that can be learnt from them.”
Likewise other political parties also shared similar experiences on the need to learn and bring back the good models into our country for a vibrant democracy.
During the session, issues of youth engagement in politics, the importance of participation of political parties in the period and between elections, the need to create conducive environment for the political parties were also discussed.
Meanwhile, the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, during the opening statement said, “It is the wish of Their Majesty the Kings that the democracy is the most effective means to further our national goals, and thus, democracy must be deepened and certain to ensure, ultimately, the wellbeing of our people and nation.”
The seminar with the political parties was conducted by the Election Commission of Bhutan yesterday.