It has been only eight years since democracy was introduced. Since then, we have made significant progress with this new form of government gifted to us by our Druk Gyalpos.
We continue to progress; at our own pace, terms and conditions.
It is only natural that the state of democracy in Bhutan is often compared with some of the oldest democracies around the globe. Such comparisons will help us in getting things right but there are some of us who fail to appreciate the remarkable strides that we have made since 2008.
We have had two successful elections for the National Assembly and National Council.
Today, more Bhutanese are interested to serve in the local government (LG). There is an increase of nine percent-1,290 from 1,162-in candidates for the upcoming LG elections as compared to the first. A record 150 university graduates are contesting this time, which is a significant achievement for our democracy.
On the gender front, the number of women candidates for LG posts has also increased from 64 to 105, which is a 64 percent increase. There are 27 women contesting for the gup’s post and 78 for the mangmi’s post. Indeed, history will be made when the country goes to the polls on September 27.
There are also other indicators that speak volumes about our success story. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2015, Bhutan is ranked 27th out of 168 countries. Bhutan also is ranked 94th out of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.
However, like any other country, we still have a long way to go to perfect our practice of democracy. That we must acknowledge.
But it does not help when people, with vested interests, continue to paint a bad picture of our institutions, built painstakingly over the years. We have to be careful about passing impulsive comments or writings without verifying the facts. This is especially important for those holding public offices and public figures as there are external elements with vested interests waiting to capitalise on every opportunity availed to discredit our achievements and to tarnish our country’s image.
We have a conducive setting and the perfect conditions for democracy to flourish in Bhutan; conditions much better than in countries from where some of our harshest criticism originates.
Our progress on democracy is succinctly described by The Druk Gyalpo in His address during the closing ceremony of the 7th Session of the Second Parliament on July 8, 2016:
“And finally, tremendous work has been put in over the course of many years to lay firm foundations for our democracy. All this was new to us, and we didn’t have a lot of experience to fall back upon. Moreover, party politics was an entirely new concept for Bhutan. Yet, we managed to steer our country in the right direction from the very beginning, and in the course of eight years, we have gained invaluable experience and built a stable democracy”