Many corrupt and authoritarian countries around the world have had perfectly educated, competent and even likeable politicians at crucial points in their history.
However, more often than not, all that fine exterior fell apart whenever there was a serious challenge to their power or when they themselves or those close to them are called to account.
The teeth and the claws then came out and those same politicians became authoritarian figures obsessed with protecting thier own power and fortune.
A real and strong democracy can only be built when those holding the highest levels of power are accountable and committed to following the standards they impose on others.
In that sense, this week has been a great victory, not only for transparency and accountability, but also for democracy in Bhutan.
In removing the Foreign Minister who was legally exonerated by the Haa court, the cabinet has demonstrated that it is ready to even crack the whip on itself. By holding one of its own members to the highest levels of accountability a clear and unmistakable signal will have gone through the entire system.
The Foreign Minister and those close to him may feel hard done by given the court verdict but democracy is about the greater good over the individual one. The issue is not only about a legal verdict but also public trust in an elected office and whether that office can afford to go through so much controversy and yet retain its credibility.
The Prime Minister and the cabinet can be criticized for any number of issues but given their actions so far they seem determined to not be seen as corrupt and authoritarian. Two qualities that can cause irreparable damage to any political party.
The cabinet’s decision to study handing over BOiC to the Bhutan Development Bank Limited is another good move. The BOiC was started with the best of intentions but given the very nature of the fund and the huge expectations, it has headed into many controversies.
All governments make mistakes but it is those who acknowledge them and then take corrective measures that can limit the damage or even come out the better for it.
The two decisions above also show a responsive government that is listening to its people. Everybody knows that the current cabinet is composed of mainly first time and inexperienced ministers but what will define them is not their reputation or intellect but if they can listen and respond to the needs of the people as sincerely as they can.
A good government must be like a good parent. Deep down they know they can only lead and influence by setting examples.
The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.