“In the four years, the groundwork for autocracy has begun to be laid”

 Opinion: Evolution of Bhutanese Democracy –Final Part

VISION:  As far as the vision is concerned the 4th Druk Gyalpo and our present King have unequivocally outlined it. The way I understand it is: their Majesties have envisioned the best and most suitable system that ensures Good Governance and Citizen Participation, which is enduring and reliable and most of all guided by democratic norms and the rule of law.

The King has laid down the image of a country where people live in harmony and see their individual and public lives as extensions of each other. Where everything is done in cooperation and the disunity, discord and divisions of large democracies is not to be found.

For our Kings vision to reach fruition, today our country desperately needs some serious introspection. Almost five years have gone by and as of now democracy’s progress is still very substandard. In other words, considering the advantages we have had, we should have achieved a lot more than we did. It’s not about: what we have achieved; but at this juncture, to ask ourselves whether we could have achieved more; and whether we are on the right path?

Now let me be very frank. Today, people frequently ask: who is going to lead the new political parties? And as a result most parties are desperately trying to find a person with the national stature for the upcoming elections.

Then remember ‘The JYT Factor’ as is in the lingo nowadays. Unfortunately in Bhutan owing to lack of experience, we have fallen into a peculiar pitfall where a ‘Special Guardian Leadership’ is being promoted. When Guardian leaders assume a larger role and higher equality than others that is what causes uncertainty.

We can draw lessons from many Asian Countries and New Democracies who have all had their share of bitter experiences with Guardian Leaders. In Bhutan, I dare say, that our PM has assumed a larger role for himself than what is generally prescribed by any democratic system. Its long-term impact is yet to be fully understood.

The very tenet of Democracy is taken away when a single elected leader has a plentitude of unfettered Power. When one institution or player, for whatever reasons usurps the powers of the other institutions and players ‘autocracy’ is born.

According to a study, there are many factors that can invite an autocratic regime even within a democratic setup. Apathy is generally attributed as being one of the causes. Another factor is when senior and high officials remain unchanged; the heads of organizations habitually gravitate towards one power center or the other in order to preserve the favorable status quo. Such circumstances reinforce and create conditions for oligarchies, plutocracies or polyarchy rule and if not, autocracy becomes the default mode of decision making.

We should be aware of such eventualities and risk.

I write this at a moment when our country only managed to secure 19 votes not including our own, out of 193 votes for the UNSC Non-Permanent Seat. After a bleeding campaign, which I reckon would have expended huge amounts of public time and resources. Juxtapose this adventurous foreign escapade to a more purposeful and mature foreign policy with greater focus on the home front. We are often blind to other possibilities because the numerous headlines of achievements camouflages failures of the government in foreign affairs, and at home hide growing distributive disparities and brewing discontent. But again all failures predictably end with the usual ambiguous account of how the country has gained from the experience.

Why do I site this timely example? Because it is the most succinct example of the manner in which the elected government has taken major decisions on behalf of the people, without consultation and consensus, and gone against the majority opinion. Only to fail, set the nation back by decades and no responsibility is taken for such a debacle. This is the dark side of guardian leadership. You take decisions because you say you know better than the people you rule. You succeed, you take the credit and if you fail, you’re not accountable.

In the four years, the groundwork for autocracy has begun to be laid. This must be regarded with great worry as a threat to a sustainable democracy.

Another major concern is: when people in political office become dubiously rich within a short span of time while limited resources go grossly mismanaged. In a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was speaking against the doctrine of papal infallibility.

When we start to believe that power inevitably corrupts and that no matter whom we vote for, in the end, they will all become corrupt- given time. This will certainly draw a wedge between the people and our elected leaders.

Corruption is becoming very visible in our country leading to people becoming disenchanted with the entire democratic process. But what gives corruption the power to destroy a democracy is when the corruption is institutionalized. We know that a corrupt police constable can be punished. But what happens with the powerful? When leaders do get caught breaking laws, mismanaging millions and directing state resources like land or licenses to family and making business deals for personal enrichment, what transpires? Here we have witnessed Powerful people go untouched even by the law. Either they engineer a crafty strategy to exonerate themselves, preying on the gullibility of people or remain protected under the veil of power. This is institutionalized corruption where those making laws or policies, implementing them or protecting them all conspire for their own benefit.

If we aren’t careful, as things stand, future political aspirants will see political office as an avenue to become rich, powerful and they will be self-serving. In time people may get accustomed to having a dysfunctional and corrupt system. Once there is a degree of acceptance, after that, it is much harder to reverse the vicious cycle. So it is always better to be cautious and preempt any danger of mishap. Good people with good intentions and good examples must take lead in shaping our democratic system.

In spite of the unacceptable dangers of the first four years, Democracy in Bhutan can still turn around and become a big success. Small is Beautiful: Theoretically small societies, compact political systems and manageable geographical size have a higher chance of success. In Bhutan, democracy can flourish with a truly high level of citizen participation that larger countries can never match.

The best form of democracy is when the Institutions are responsive to people’s aspirations, self-healing during times of crisis and corrective after setbacks. A good democratic system does not rest its survival on a single political leader or a Party. In the end, no democracy will turn out right, if people do not believe that government is accountable to them.

The legal framework, the administrative and political apparatus, has been designed soundly in content and reach, in order to lay down a foundation upon which good and effective governance will be at its core. This is central to achieving a successful democratic system.   Other factors that will determine our future, like: our leaders ability to provide objective guidance and give inspiration; peoples access to knowledge; the right environment to gain experience; to build reliable organizations and institutional systems; our ethos and values that will shape our outlook and attitude to new dimensions of nation building and survival.

Democracy is not just about elections. It’s also about the democracy in between elections. We had our elections in 2008 but are yet to see democracy.


Phub Wangdi pursuing his studies in Australia gives his take on Bhutanese democracy so far


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  1. Phub, you write well and you write sense! Please, continue to write and open the eyes of our people! Hope to read more articles from you.

  2. Mr. Phub Wangdi, I will not waste any more time reading your article. The topic speaks your intent. Your assignment thus completed should have at least fetched you a pass mark. Just be shameful that wrote the assignment for you while you were cleaning toilets and houses in Australia. Where is your academic ethics? Where is your academic protocol? 

    You have a right to your opinion wherein your mind is clouded by so much hatred and negativity towards the first democratic government. Opinion indeed that you don’t have any facts and figures to tell us but simply read between lines of government’s functions and policies. And I have a right to my opinion. So there we go. We do not need facts and figures to defame anybody. 

    • its great that one who can clean toilets can also write such exemplary article on bhutan, to build bhutan. its sad that none from the parliament has the guts to go open this way.

      • What do you know about parliamentary democracy? Do you reckon it should be like in Nepal? Where they make mess out of everything? 

        • Phuntsho,
          I have been reading your post and you seem to be a DPT guy who is intolerant
          and lacks appreciation. You also seem to despise those who work in Australaia.
          What is wrong with someone cleaning and earning rather than being corrupt.
          You should think big and learn to appreciate who write against this govt because
          criticize does not mean that we hate the govt. but we are concern about the future of our democracy. This govt being the first democratically elected govt has the biggest responsibility in ensuring that it live up to its expectation and react to every criticism
          like a small boy. Think big and go on doing the right thing. People will appreciate you

    • I think you should know what ethics means, I guess you are born to follow your master without speaking a word like a faithful dog because if you raise ur voice you will lose what you have been getting. 
      When someone has the guts to speak out the truth unlike people like you, please analyse the facts and then open your ass……..

      • You will be a perfect sycophant to such persons who make no attempts to analyse both sides. And you have named yourself Critical? Full of effing that just because somebody write against the government, it is called critical? Bullshit. And I know what ethics means. Therefore save your teachings for thyself. The moderator had edited my post – I had mentioned this article was written by somebody for Mr. Phub who submitted as his assignment to his university. Now does it make sense – a breach of academic protocol? 

    • This guy might have cleaned toilets in Australia but what is wrong with it when he had made millions and brought back home to help you buy Santafee or Prado or any foreign vehicles that you are happily driving with his dollars.

      Because you do not understand the modern dynamics of a globalised economy, you tend to blame the person that is helping you directly or indirectly. You better learn like him. That is my advice.

  3. bullshit by idiot!

  4. Phub Wangdue,

    Your long piece of article is nothing more than the reflection of your true destructive self, that tries to malign and discredit the present government. I’ m pretty sure, you are not learning the true values of education but devaluing yourself with imbibing all sorts of corrupt cultures within and from outside you…..We expect you to come and serve the govt. with loyalty and dedication and not come with dirty shits and impurities in your mind….clear and shake up your “conscience” and dispel the evils..Good Luck!

  5. Well, this is a well researched article where the author argues his points more rationally than emotionally. It is very much true that we have to avoid guardian leadership that has plagued the region. Bhutan is growing and so is the level of tolerance of the people to take criticisms constructively. Many in their charge of emotions will react negatively. Many will applaud you again in the fit of ecstasy. But what is important is to transcend all these emotional outbursts and analyse rationally and logically, to find the facts and validate them and to substantiate your arguments with those facts. I would also urge you to continue keeping emotions at bay while arguing different viewpoints.  This is the face of a new enlightened Bhutanese Citizen.  

  6. I find it absolutely funny that this guy is in Australia and writing about life back home. Like I said earlier, reading too much of this paper. As for this paper, anyone who has something bad to say about the RGOB is fine with them,

    • This is not saying bad about the government. This is checking about government that is crazily cruising with unfettered power, who would not bother to read constitutional laws before implementing taxation policies. That is definitely a bad government. If they do not trust the very constitution that they drafted and passed, then we know who is wrong.

  7. What a shame! Phuetsho is a person who would run after crows if someone says that a crow took his ear. While the original author knows he would feel the pain if his ear was taken, i would ask someone if my ear was really missing.

  8. Mr. Phub, being a bonafide citizen of Bhutan and having availed all what you wanted, eg..education, job, further studies, trainings, etc..please respect to the govt and appreciate what has been done by the govt for the general well being of the Bhutanese society.

    Think 1000 times, when you write such comments. Use your common sense for common benefits rather than destroying the image of the country. Do you really think, present govt is such type as mentioned by you. 
    You continue posting such comments, am 100% sure, you will land up in thick soup. 

    If you are not at all satisfied by the performance of the present govt under the leadership of JYT, you join politics and you be the PM and function the govt. It is easier to pinpoint faults of others.

    With higher qualification, with increased work  experiences, try to change your attitude. 

    • chandra bose,
      If one gets education, higher studies, job, get satisfied personal level does not mean one let the ruling govt rule as it likes and destroy the country.

    • Mr. Phub is a natural citizen of Bhutan like any one of us. He has every right to avail any opportunities presented to him as long as he obtained through fair competition without involving in some form of corruption. You cannot blame him for education that you too received in our country. What is a state? What are the responsibilities of state? You do not understand this questions if you start blaming him for getting education and health care services. After all , any form of government exist because of all of us. So i would suggest you think 1 billion times before start criticizing a good citizen.

    • boss urs is truly a past concept…you are still living in the past. what is democracy without such critical and constructive views. without tolerance there will be no democracy. and yes we have to be true to what we are writing…

  9. well, he has put his opinion and has done well. person like laydgn and Phuntso should try to accept the reality. TRUTH IS TRUTH AND IT MUST BE TOLD, hence should be accepted if if that is bitter. 

    • Middle path, for your kind information I am living in the real world. The author claims he is pursuing studies in Australia though we do not know what type or what field. The mistakes, wrong doings and any policies of the government must be pointed out but it has to be argued sensibly. But his opinion (article) is blinded by hatred towards the elected leaders.
      I am afraid he had submitted this article as his assignment and I am afraid that somebody from theBhtuanese wrote for him. Now that is the reality behind the virtual news we are being fed every single day. 

  10. Mr. Don’t shit in the same plate from where you eat. Lets, be a true bhutanese. I also will not read ur article hereafter. You are simply trying drag the name of our country below sea.

  11. Phuntsho, Phub Wangdi has provided lots of facts. “The billion dollar Education City Project, which was also approved by the Cabinet, appears to have a conflict of interest with the PM’s son and nephew as the local representatives for the Foreign Investor”. Is this not fact?

    DPT campaigned on the platform of “Justice and Equity”. Can you give one specific example what DPT did to promote “Justice and Equity”? As far I am concerned I cannot think of anything DPT did to promote “Justice and Equity”.

    We should not demean people who clean toilets and houses. We should try to promote dignity of labor. If Bhutan is to become self-reliant, we have to promote dignity of labor.

    • Sonama,
      dont say that. OAG is trying to prove that this days with ACC…the justice and equity! hahaha what an irony ya.
      this govt got to answer a lot in future to the people of Bhutan.

  12. Good job. A great piece of essay on autocracy. In fact, you have reproduced the classroom theories perfectly. This shows that you have not just cleaned toilets but also spent some time memorizing the textbooks. In the process of reproducing however you have failed miserably to provide flesh on how the government has failed. The theories have got better of your intention to dislike the government. The only point that you make/claim of being palpable is the UN seat that the government couldn’t secure. Your intentions will not allow you to appreciate the government even if it did. Democracy wouldn’t mean consulting every tom, dick and harry including an idiot student like yourself on its efforts of pursuing foreign policy. The likes of you are there only to point fingers to the believes that you could have done it better….

    • I think autocracy is prevailing and is showcased in many of the decisions made by the present government.


      1. McKinsey document is nowhere to be found (over 9 million dollar investment). We are not able to read this document.
      2. Failed Pedestrian day executive order
      3. Failed UNSC bid
      4. Taxation blunder (result in the loss of a constitutional case)
      5. Ceaseless GNH promotion abroad while neglecting GNH at home
      6. Rupee problem (blaming citizens for eating vegetables and eggs bought from India)
      7. Denchi land scam
      8. Education city proect….

      What more do you want to hear to understand what is not right.

  13. Haha A real waste of time

  14. Learn to write balanced n fair opinion if u want people to read n believe ur article ….or else don’t waste ur time…rather concentrate on studies or cleaning shits in Australia.

    • Santabir Gurung

      I find a lot of sense in whatever the author has written. Yes, there are some truths and facts in his article. In my opinion, our economy has suffered a huge setback, it has plummeted almost 20 years low. The numerous bans and freezes, and the P-D have inflicted a lot of hardships and pains both directly and indirectly to the people particularly the common people. All the infrastructural developments we see were already planned and were in pipeline when the present govt. came to power. Corruption has increased by leaps and bounds, and, I would agree with the author that the corruption is getting institutionalised. Even the ACC and OAG seem to be patronised by a few. I appreciate the author for having taken some time to write the above article. I would not be one of the DPT chamchas to criticize your article, Mr. Phub.

      • Santabir,
        well said. yes they are refusing to see and accept the truth. the democracy we see at the moment is very subdued and cautious. this is apparent in the way we tlak or debate on BBS. What more proff we need. This should be taken as a caution for us to guard and promote our nacent democracy.

  15. The author has unarguably written elegantly. Unfortunately his propositions can never be proved or dismissed because – just think – it could not be done so.  It can only be sujected to debate and disussion like the one we are having right now. But one thing stands out -objectively  the author has whooped all the reactionary beg-to-differs’ asses whose only rebuttal arguments were plainly “you are shit, because you no respect”. 
    Irony of the day: During the election campaigne, they pursue us to give them the vote. Like a baby in the cradle crying while reaching out for loli-pops. They are all excited and almost desparate to serve us. So we elect someone to do the job for us. So We grant them their wish.  So we give them power and colors. Yet the respect channel has to be only uni- directional? 

  16. First, there is no one in Australia by the name of Phurba Wangdue, and even if there is one, he won’t be foolish to write without a pseudonym. Rather than bluntly attacking Phurba, why don’t we equal him by writing like him. I fully appreciate Phurba for expressing his mind. It is the blatant criticisms like some of those posted here that compels people to write anonymously. Intellectuals are not appreciated and appreciated. I am sure Phurba is right there breathing in Thimphu, not Australia.

  17. Prince of Pangthang-daza

    I have to agree with what the writer wrote. Besides the groundwork for chaos, corruption, and autocracy laid, this government has also sowed the seeds of mistrust of the elected leaders in the people’s minds who have now no more faith in the law and judiciary. After the land grabs debacle and the visible nepotism by our elected leaders, does it not seem that they are either blind or simply do not care?

  18. PW has made good observation. Indeed, he did remind every political parties, old and new to shape the Bhutanese Democracy  to the expectation of our beloved Monarchs and people by citing the some unpleasant examples of first elected government. I hope, present  government  would take it positive and do better in next government if somehow wins 2013 election. As information to present government,  many people are regretting and keep on saying  ” we made mistake”

  19. Phurba Wangdue has right express his opinion. But I don’t think it is really PW if there is one in Down Under.
    Just like The Bhutanese invented nameless legal expert and economists, it has invented PW. PW is neither proven scholar nor leader. Even Barrack Obama’s opinion writes-up cannot be in front page. Why The Bhutanese gives in front page. The reasons could be;
    1. it is Bhutanese’s own write up
    2. The Bhutanese will give space to everybody that write against government
    3. Written by Opposition Leader and his cronies
    4. This is article paid so that the democracy is undermined.

    Otherwise, it is not supported by facts or figures or research. So pity that Masters student couldn’t write better opinionated papers. Possible he writes as he cleaned toilets. Once coming home, he will behave like blue-blooded elites.

  20. Hahahhaaa….All are truly true to your words….all suffers from the same disease…INTELLECTUAL DIASBILITY….hahahahaaaaa

  21. I dont like the way one of the Dzongda speak and behave ruthlessly to the lama/Khenpo and public.Should we kick him and retialiate same like him.The ground work of autocracy is already laid and it is nourishing

  22. You will not know the value of something until it is lost. Do you ever wonder what the situation would have turned out in Bhutan if another party came to power? The country can hardly be stable when democracy steps in. The DPT government surely had some shortfalls, but it also has successes. Don’t talk about economy because the economic crisis is global. Do not think that you can undermine the credibility of DPT by all such negative remarks. Majority of Bhutanese people are wise and smart enough to differentiate between bad and good, right and wrong and they will make their judgement when the moment arrives. This kind of propaganda may work in other country, but not certainly in Bhutan where gurdian leadership is always to be there. The gurdian deties, triple gem and the fortune of Pelden Drukpa decide as to who is destined to be the leader of Bhutan in different eras.

    • dear citizen,
      I am afraid that you still do not understand why rupee crisis happened in our country for the first time in our memory! you seem to take comfort in telling that it is as result of global financial crisis. pl do some research and it is not difficult to see why it happened. The govt has simply over spent! that is the truth even though you may not like to accept it.
      “Do you ever wonder what the situation would have turned out in Bhutan if another party came to power?” what do you mean? This is what DPT has been telling the people during the election campaign in 2008 and you still seem to play this tricks?
      this is the problem with you. I am not pdp but I feel you are trying to black mail the innocent people. this tantamount to deception and trickery which is not good according to our GNH values.

  23. Well, the job of intellectuals is to collect information, analyze, interpret and mass communicate the results. I thought this is what this article is doing. The contents or interpretation of information may or may not be full truth; but the fact that such intellectual and analytical capabilities are exhibited by native Bhutanese is worth noting. As systems evolve in Bhutan we need and encourage more such intellectuals. Blind faith in any system or individual is highly not recommended. Systems, be it government or any, is best run by collective wisdom not by individual idiosyncrasies for it will backfire badly in the long run if we entrust faith solely in an individual.

    Looking back four years of the present government systems, the balanced view is that there are several success on socioeconomic development fronts, but at systems or institutional levels we have not freed ourselves from the shackle of the past governance system. It appears that even in so-called democratic set-up one or two individuals seem to be running the show while masses sheepishly follow regardless of where we are heading. Thus, this type of analysis and pinpointing weaknesses in our newly established government system is timely.


  24. The people power (2013) will provide us the verdict….till then go on debating, both pro & anti-DTP people.

  25. He had also washed under garments of the land lady ! What a pity!

  26. “Systems, be it government or any, is best run by collective wisdom not by individual idiosyncrasies for it will backfire badly in the long run if we entrust faith solely in an individual. ” well said Thinlay.

    Real sense of democracy does not need guardian, government should be “of the people for the people, by the people, for the people. To promote guardianship is no other than political scam.

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