Democratic parties

Bhutan joined the world in celebrating International Democracy Day over the weekend. In Thimphu, a panel discussion was held to promote a better understanding of democracy, and to talk about why it is especially important for citizens to enjoy their rights but also to fulfill their responsibilities in a young democratic country.

There’s no doubt that such discussions are important. They will go a long way in educating our people; in building strong foundations for our democracy; and in making sure that, through democracy, the promises of peace, liberty and prosperity are fulfilled. So we must have more of these discussions.

But whenever we talk about democracy, one important aspect of it does not get much attention: political parties, and, in particular, the fact that they may not themselves be run democratically. This is strange. Political parties exist for and because of democracy. Yet, the parties themselves often lack a culture of democracy. Political parties contest elections and, through the democratic process, acquire political power to influence public policy. Yet, powers within parties are often distributed and exercised without regard to even the most basic of democratic principles.

Our democracy is young. So we must nurture it. We must strengthen every one of its instruments, from majority rule and minority rights to the separation of powers, checks and balances, and the rule of law. And yes, we must understand our rights and responsibilities.

But we must also demand that political parties themselves are democratic. We must insist that they too respect and abide by democratic principles when, for example, they select their leaders and candidates, or when they determine their policies, or, for that matter, when they run all their other affairs.

For the long-term success of democracy it is crucial that political parties themselves practice democracy. After all, if political parties are themselves not democratic, how can we expect them to strengthen and spread the ideals of democracy? How can we expect them to deliver the promises of democracy?


Facebook Comments:


  1. I want to repeat what I wrote in your earlier post about the growing corruption in Judiciary. If we don’t have a strong and clean judiciary, everything will fall apart including our democracy and the rule of law. Here’s what I wrote in your earlier post:

    I also worry a lot about our judiciary. In hushed voices, we often hear stories of growing corruption in Judiciary. If there is any truth in what I hear, then we, as a nation and a young democracy, are really in a big trouble. So, before it’s too late, I BEG (BEG!) the concerned leaders in Judiciary to conduct an under-cover study of what’s really going on, especially with the younger Drangpons.

    In the short run, we may face a shortage of Drangpons, but in order to save our young democracy and our nation’s future, we must take drastic action against the rotten apples in our basket.

  2. Yes, as pointed by OL, i have read and observed in few countries especially in India how there is one supremo and who ruled the party unopposed.

    In case of Bhutan, it is too early to comment on undemocratic political process within party. If it happens, then it is worrying trend. Time will come when PM’s son become PM and party president’s son become president.

    The democracy will only revolved around a voting once in five years….

  3. Thanks to the internet. Through this site, we get to hear the voice of the Opposition in Bhutan. Is the Opposition Party not included in our Democracy? Sigh!

  4. Dear OL,
    I couldnt agree with you more. White has no meaning without Black and Day has no meaning without Night. Similarly Democracy has no meaning without Political parties, Elections and Rule of Law.

  5. Whichpolitical party do you mean is not run democratically? Currently, DPT and PDP are the only two registered parties. So, do you mean to say that DPT is not run democratically? Can you explain with clear evidences?

  6. Haha, Dorji, I think something is wrong with you, so you mean to say a party that has a supremo is not democratic, where do you get such ideas into your head, reading too much of stuff from OLs blog or what.

    As for the article itself, it serves absolutely no purpose, Dorji’s post clearly tells you that.

  7. Do you mean to suggest that party you are heading is not democratic? As a leader of already existing party (PDP) such comment from you give an impression that your party and other party (DPT) are undemocratic. If this being the case, then we have made a serious mistake by voting for undemocratic parties. How pathetic!!!

  8. Surely you jest, democracy is a form of government, not organisational structure.

    A political party is not a country. For example, a political party can, and often do, have a party whip, a country doesn’t.

    You often tout the press as an important instrument of democracy, do you then expect the a newspaper to operate like a democracy?

    This post is a red herring.

  9. DPT is the most undemocratic party, and this has been insinuated by DPT MP’s themselves. They have an unflattering nick name for their President (PM). The PM found out what his MP’s were referring to him behind his back and called for a meeting where to prove a point he insisted he sit down at the same level as the MP’s instead of his normal Thri (throne) that had been prepared for him. This tokenism failed to convince his MP’s who still refer to him by that nick name.
    The DPT MP’s say that they have to just keep their mouths shut and their ears open when their President is around otherwise they get a scolding like a headmaster scolding his students. The MP’s do not like the PM for his unilateralism and authoritarian way of functioning. The MP’s are scared to voice their opinions especially if it contradicts their President’s views. They just smile, bow their heads, and say “yes” because if they do not do that then they will not get a DPT ticket to contest the next election.
    What I have mentioned above I have heard from none other than DPT MP’s themselves. If he treats his own MP’s in this manner one shudders to think how highly he thinks of himself and his feeling of self-indispensability. No one in this world is indispensable, people who think so are living in a fools paradise.
    I used to be a staunch supporter of DPT (that is why I enjoy the confidence of several DPT MP’s who still think I am a die hard DPT supporter and that is how I get to hear a lot about the internal functioning of the DPT) until a few months ago but I have lost respect for the party I voted for (and garnered votes for)looking at the current scheme of things, especially the corruption, nepotism, vindictiveness, scams, and skeletons that seem to be tumbling out of the DPT leadership cupboard especially in the recent past combined with the arrogance of the DPT leadership that seems to believe that this great nation of ours will not function if DPT is not there.

  10. In any scheme of things, there is general rule that person who sits on top position calls a final shot. This has been unspoken rule and will be as long as human system persists on this tiny blue planet. The only leverage we have is to have somebody in that top position who listens and considers the best possible suggestions and call a final shot. This leverage is supposed to be guaranteed by so-called democratic form of governance.

    Now, if political parties fail to live up to this best possible arrangement then effort must be made to improve the system. The logical question then to ask is who can make this improvement? My view is that only the members of political parties can make this improvement and if there is no democracy in their respective parties the members of political parties themselves are to be blamed. From this logic, there is no case to point finger.

    From above posting of OL, I can only conclude that political parties in Bhutan need basic lessons in democracy. No wonder, all toms and dicks, these days, could jump the bandwagon of politics and attempt to run the otherwise complex human governance system. Indeed sad conclusion.


  11. Dear Drangam and Dangden,
    You are spying on PM and DPT just to show their dark secrets or what.

    DPT MPs may be afraid that PM wouldn’t choose them for next election. May be they know they got the post because of PM….

  12. drangnam dha drangdhen,

    The DPT must indeed be sad to lose such a wonderful supporter like you, now best of luck with PDP, your new party.

    And with the level of your arguments, the DPT must be happy that you are gone for good.

  13. I can clearly sense that drangnam dha drangdhen is simplypretending to be a DPT supporter and making false comments about the party. I have never heard of such grievances between the MPs and Dpt leader. Do not just try to criticise the DPT leader whose conscience is as clear as ever. The criticisms will not work in your favour because when the people find out the actual truth, your own credibility is gone.

  14. Right now we have only two political parties registered. To be honest both I know are not run democratically. The up coming new political parties who are yet to register claim they would be run democratically in fact the DNP even had two members attend the Wednesday BBS PP interview and gave that as a reason.

  15. Political parties are an essential part of the modern democratic framework. They are of crucial importance for a viable and well-functioning democracy.

    Every political party has some overriding principles. Party members may differ in their opinions but will never deviate from the fundamental principles of the party. It is this difference in opinions that any party should entertain.

    A party leader, by his prominence, might try to subordinate the opinions of other members to his. In this case democracy within the party will be compromised. What would ensue from this is one-man decision that might lack validity.

    Therefore, democratic practices must be observed within the party and the system as a whole.

    ** I would like to request Your Excellency to post an article about the Ideological basis of PDP and DPT too (if possible) since many people whom I talked to have nothing much to say on this.

    I would like to know about the party ideologies. I follow your blog but rarely comment. Great work!

  16. So far, I have listened to the three emergin political parties and I found all of them absolutely theoritical. They talk as if they could change Bhutan overnight. It is easier said than done. We all know that, whoever comes to power, there is no magic in developing the country especially when we have limited resources. Those who talk more will do less.

  17. I am disappointed in PDP not because i support it but because there is no ideological basis. I couldn’t understand what PDP stands for? Even the name doesn’t say much.

    To be able to vote for PDP, it is time that OL as a president do something and publicize ideology because there is no much time. Right now DPT is busy with ruling and others are yet to be registered. This is the right time, PDP makes its presence. When other party comes, attention of media and people will be divided.

    I would like to know where does PDP stands in foreign policies and economic policies which is, in my opinion, two most important things for donor-driven country like ours..
    This may not be relevant to topics but it is a wish of a voter…

  18. Great work indeed your excellency .if our small fledgeling democracy is to succeed it is Important that all of us together work towards and for its success.
    In my opinion ,we have what it takes .only ,we are getting carried away and deviated by personalities on a personal agenda.let us keep in abeyance our personal grudges that manifest huge egos which have no place in today’s times.
    Let us realize that now and the decisions made today is what is going to steer our country and her people towards success (happiness) or discord ( unhappiness)
    It is my fervent appeal to fellow bloggers rise to the occasion ,feel the pulse of the people and convey their aspirations through your words!

  19. The new politicians are simply accusing the ruling party for its failures. But, they are not coming up with alternative solutions. They say they will strengthen the economy, but do not explain how. They talk about poverty alleviation, but do not explain how. So, they seem to know what to achieve, but do not know how to achieve.

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