It is unprecedented in Bhutan’s electoral democracy so far for MPs to openly voice their Opposition to the selection of a Minister by the Prime Minister or even openly disagree with the PM.
However, this appears to now have happened with MPs coming under their own names to record their disagreement with the process and the decision in the selection of the new Labour Minister.
On the legal front, it is important to note that the Constitution gives only the Prime Minister the prerogative to nominate a minister.
So the issue at hand is not a legal one but a political one, and it shows how different a party the DNT is from the DPT and the PDP.
Such reactions would have been almost unthinkable under DPT and PDP, which have a strong Party President system and hierarchy with differences discussed behind closed doors.
But the DNT is an entirely different setup based not on any one or two towering personalities, but it operates more on a consensus model.
This difference from DPT and PDP is DNT’s main strength and also its potential weakness.
The lack of an overtly centralized leadership in DNT means that there are more heads at the top doing the thinking which is a good thing in making important decisions, but at the same time the danger is that everybody wants to play leader.
The charge that only party founders are being given a chance at senior leadership is not true as the Prime Minister himself only entered DNT in 2013 and that too just as a candidate.
On the other hand, the gnawing fear of the MPs raising their voice and others supporting them is that founders and candidates from 2013 are dominating the party with the 2018 MPs not getting adequate say, and what it could mean during and after the 2023 elections.
This is the essential fault line in the party right now.
However, even while MPs question the choice of the PM no one is questioning the PM’s overall leadership or his right to rule. So while there is a political crisis within DNT it is not a national crisis or a governance crisis.
In one sense this action by the MPs is an evolution of MPs becoming more assertive with each new Parliament and as time passes.
Internal party democracy is good and healthy, but the party must also ensure that there is no chaos impacting governance.
Democracy is messy, and it’s hard. It’s never easy.
Robert Kennedy, Jr.