Role of Conflict in Bhutanese Democracy

The last four years of Bhutanese democracy has seen an evolution in the roles of democratic institutions like the Anti Corruption Commission, Judiciary, Media, Election Commission of Bhutan, Royal Audit Authority and the Parliament.

A lot of the evolution would not have been possible without conflict, either with the executive or with each other.

The fact that there has been a powerful and at times overreaching executive, a rush by the democratic institutions to assert their own positions, and finally ideal conditions for conflict has in many ways either strengthened or defined many democratic institutions.

It will be simplistic and sycophantic to ascribe the growth of democratic institutions to the efforts or tolerance of the current government. The role of the executive has in fact been mainly in testing the strengths and limits of the democratic institutions.

If the executive had been a placid one following all the rules and not creating any controversy then Bhutan’s democratic institution would still not have been able as strong as it is today.

The constitutional tax case between the government and the opposition leader not only defined the role of the Opposition leader, but more importantly established the supremacy of the law and in doing so showed the Judiciary as a neutral and independent organization.

Gyelpozhing and may other scams taken up bravely and competently by the ACC has made the powerful accountable and will do wonders for sending out the message that everyone is accountable and that the truth eventually come out. This message sent down the ranks will curb corruption.

The ECB and the RAA have also had clashes with the current government’s political and bureaucratic set up respectively but have held their own and defined themselves as independent institutions.

The Parliament, which was seen as a group of clueless and gridlocked MPs, unable to pass bills is now evolving into a much more sophisticated and powerful institution due to the many lessons learnt. MPs are increasingly realizing that the bills they pass have huge ramifications for the nation and that they have powers and functions beyond just passing bills.

A lot of this has been possible due to the well crafted constitution that defines the positions, roles and powers of democratic powers. In the case of institutions like the ACC, Judiciary, ECB, RAA it also has to do with the heads of the institutions who are experienced, honest and intelligent individuals laying down the foundations of an independent organizational culture.

The Monarchy has also played a tremendously important role not only as the creator of democracy and these democratic institutions but also as the source of unity ensuring that the differences in a democracy doesn’t drive the country apart.

His Majesty the King is also a source of inspiration, stability, positive balance and continuity in the state which is crucial for democratic institutions. Many constitutional heads in doing their job look to His Majesty the King for inspiration not only as the King but also as the symbol and head of the Bhutanese Nation. His Majesty the King apart from his other roles is also mandated by the constitution as the protector and guardian of the constitution in the best interests of the people.

The government so far has a mixed report card. While it is true that so far the government has not gone with hammer and tongs to destroy the ACC, ECB and RAA it has hurt the budding culture of the critical or watchdog press.

As events, situations and characters play out there are still some major challenges for the success of democratic institutions.

The biggest challenge as of now is the situation of the media. The attempts to silence the critical press through economic blockades will have far reaching ramifications on the evolution of Bhutanese democracy. It has the potential to undo the very basic foundations of a democracy based on free speech, free press and the right to criticize one’s own government.

How, the Gyelpozhing case plays out in court will also define the stature of the judiciary, ACC’s role, and the future of corruption in Bhutan.

As the terms of the constitutional heads come to an end it will be an open question on who will be the new appointees especially given the importance of these institutions.

As political parties begin exerting their muscle more there is every danger of constitutional bodies becoming politicized, subservient and pliant towards them.

The evolution so far shows that Bhutanese democracy though not a smooth process ensures everyone learns. It also shows that the first few years are extremely critical in the future growth of Bhutanese democracy and for the sake of Bhutan, democracy should not start and end with the ballot box.



“The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”
Albert Einstein

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  1. I thought for once the editor is writing a neutral article but towards the end of the editorial the government of the day is blamed as always. And it has just started to point fingers at the Judiciary. Blame and allegations against is on the way for sure, by this paper. The other interesting thing about the editorial is all other democratic institutions like ECB, RAA, ACC and Judiciary are learning, and getting experienced through mistakes or conflict of interests or whatever but it had not mentioned anything about the mistakes, immature reporting, biased news, etc. by the media and their reporters? I did not know all our reporters were experienced right from the start.  

  2. Very true, I love and support every thought of TheBhutanese paper

  3. To blame government, oppositions or others is too easy for any paper or people who knows little more than alphabets. But some Bhutanese newspapers has to undergo credibility ratings and papers with worst credibility quality has to be revokes of its license….

  4. how to make a comment?

  5. Just as court proceedings are imminent in the Gyelpozhing land grab case by MPs Jigme Thinlay, Minjur Dorjee, Jigme Tshultim & others, MP Jigme Thinlay today heads to the east. If he really means it when he says they want to establish a strong foundation for democracy, then he should not travel east & impose pressure on the outcome of the corruption case by his presence & through his position, directly or indirectly. He should let the law take its course. He should travel South if he must, but should have avoided the east where the corruption case begins shortly. MP Jigme Thinlay is such a hypocrite.

    • What is wrong with him traveling to the east? He is from the east and he is representing the people of the east. Whether you like it or not Democracy is for the people of the east. He is not going to the Mongar court to defend the Home Minister and the Speaker but I can understand you cannot deny that JYT is hell charismatic and a powerful leader though you would as much not want to believe that. Rather I think you should have faith in the court that they will do their jobs efficiently.

  6. Democracy in Bhutan seems to be evolving and every institutions linked to it are scrambling to find their place. In the process, conflicts of various nature are inevitable. It is an interesting time, but worrying at the same time. Worrying because we can not afford to let conflicts go on for ever without resolution. We are poor country. We depend on donor handouts and goodwill of our neighbors. We can not spend our time, energy and resources(esp. finance) for long on none socioeconomic activities. I hope all scams and conflicts of interests are resolved as soon as possible. We should pay more attention to our important tasks of improving living conditions of poor and downtrodden and improve quality of life for all Bhutanese.


  7. Sangay Kuenden Drukpa

    The OAG has decorated his shameless face wearing a Khadar with the word “It is better that ten guilty escape than one innocent suffer” [ ]. Now he is trying his best to defend the Gyelposhing case. In this way you are letting free the guilty in the case. How much you receive from those guilty persons since you prove to be an excellent corrupt leader. Today I as an individual and on behalf of the general citizen I request you not to destroy the system. Tomorrow you may or may not live, for our future and your kids future too, please build the system and leave us behind a system that we youths can trust and relay on.

  8. these paper is not blaming any institution …it was just making critical analysis…why dnt you face criticism… coward and egoistic lad…….

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