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As the interim govt. steps in

The second democratically elected prime minister and his Cabinet formerly resigned from office yesterday.

The elected government relinquished its office to the interim government, a constitutional obligation to ensure free and fair elections.

Bhutan’s decision to have an interim government over a caretaker government is a conscious one. When a government in power is allowed to continue as a caretaker government, it could misuse the government machinery. This has happened in other countries. An interim government carries out routine functioning and does not have legislative and executive power. But its institution enables the election commission to hold free and fair elections. It levels the field for political parties and tells the people that the country is one step closer to the election process.

The Cabinet’s dissolution comes eight days after the dissolution of the national assembly.  The executive remains in office until an interim government is appointed. Article 19, sections 1, 2 and 3 on interim government in the Constitution are interlocking provisions that explain the appointment of an interim government within 15 days after the assembly’s dissolution and the resignation of the cabinet ministers.

In the weeklong period between the dissolution of the national assembly and the appointment of the interim government, the country saw the Cabinet ministers remaining in office but without their orange scarves and the ceremonial sword. In a society where the colour of the scarves determines the position of an official, the removal of symbols of power created some confusion among the members of the public. Some were not sure if they are to be referred to formally as lyonpos and lyonchhen. The confusion went up a notch when they attended the party’s convention with their kabneys. These symbols would not be allowed had the election process begun.

This confusion is now settled with the appointment of the interim government. Legal experts say that so long they hold their executive positions they should be referred to by the positions they hold. Also, there appears to be a perception that the opposition remains in office until the Cabinet dissolves. But as part of the national assembly, the opposition dissolves along with the national assembly. The principle is – once the assembly dissolves, they lose their authority. And because it is not a part of the executive, it does not continue to exist.

Confusions such as these are expected with time and change. What matters is how we clarify and resolve them. Change will compel us to look at the same laws with new perspectives. We will seek more answers and question more answers.

This is how democracy evolves and we should see this as democracy maturing in Bhutan. The second democratically elected government has successfully completed its tenure. We are now onto to the third national assembly elections on an optimistic note. That is, to hold a good election.

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