When did we know?


HM always knew

Last week, Bhutan successfully hosted the first Regional Conference on Deepening and Sustaining Democracy in Asia. The Centre for Bhutan Studies and UNDP Bhutan organized the event together.

That Bhutan, the world’s youngest democracy, led a major international discussion on deepening democratic values is commendable. It shows how much we’ve matured, politically, since the introduction of parliamentary democracy in our country barely 18 months ago. It also shows how serious we are about our new form of governance.

Looking back, it is clear that His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo had carefully prepared us, his people, for democracy. Most of us now agree that the process started with the establishment of elected local governments – at the dzongkhag level in 1981 and, a decade later, at the gewogs.  Then, in 1998, His Majesty devolved executive powers to an elected council of ministers. And in 2001, he commanded the drafting of our constitution. More importantly, and in countless occasions throughout his golden reign, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo consistently commanded that people’s participation and political change were necessary to strengthen the sovereignty and security of our country, and the peace, prosperity and wellbeing of our people.

So to celebrate our democracy, I’ve recently been thinking about, and asking people two questions. One, when did we first know that democracy would be introduced in our country? And two, when did we actually embrace democracy?

The answer to the second question is quite obvious: most people see 24th March 2008, as the day Bhutan reluctantly accepted democracy. To be sure, a lot had already taken place before the 24th of March: A draft Constitution was prepared; that draft was discussed widely, throughout our country; the Election Commission of Bhutan was established; electoral laws were drafted; a mock election was conducted; political parties were formed; and the National Council elections were conducted.

Still, for most of us, 24th March 2008 comes to mind when we think about the introduction of democracy in our country. That was the day when we went to the polls, in record numbers, to elect members to the National Assembly and, by extension, to choose our first government.

The answer to the first question, however, is not as straightforward. And, most of the people I posed the question to were, at best, tentative with their answers. So I invite you to think about the same question: when did you first know that democracy would be introduced in our country?


Facebook Comments:


  1. Tough Question. I think we sort of knew it in our hearts for a while before the talk even started. Acceptance aside, we need to understand the importance of what we have with us now. It may have been a gift that we weren’t sure how to handle, but it is a Gift nevertheless, a Great gift. My favorite quote about democracy is spiderman’s: “With Great power, comes great responsibility”. We have been given great power, and with it, great responsibility.

  2. whats the relevance of the question? I am sorry if i am missing the point.

  3. I don’t think that is an important question and it does not matter either-when did we know? The more pertinent question now is- do we really HAVE a democracy in Bhutan? Or is it just an eye wash? Our great leaders had bestowed upon us this freedom of democratic rule centuries ago. We only gave it a new name in this modern era. Whether our democracy will truly benefit our people and our country or it is just a luxury that our people can not afford is yet to see.

    As for the recent Democracy Conference in Paro, I don’t know how productive it was but I surely know that the foreign participants enjoyed the trip to an exotic place! One of them said,” without this seminar, it would be impossible for me to visit your country” That’s off record!!

  4. I agree with Tangba. It is not important whether or not we have democracy, but it is extremly important to know whether all Bhutanese have decent house, adequate income, could sent their children to school and college, could afford three square meals a day, could avail good health coverage, could practice religion of ones choice, could excercise ones god gifted freedom, could live under umbrella of peace and liberty, could walk through streets of Thimphu at night without fear of being mugged, could travel in comfortable car or bus to wherever we want to go, could go to holy places for pilgrimage or for holidays etc. etc. If we do not have these or do not know whether whether we have these then we must work for them. Realization of these necessities of good life is what democracy is all about to me.



    Knew nothing about Democracy before but now experiencing it with DPT as ruling party and PDP with only 2 Members as Opposition Party.Still then seems and feels the Government is running smoothly. Hope and wish Everything with this new born democratic country will grow…..

    Note: Your honourable i am very sorry to inform your kind self that so far i didnt recieve your prize for the Big Picture
    ( water mill). Seems very busy la…

    • I sent your prize, a packet of “bjobchi”, to the address you sent me, about two weeks ago. You obviously didn’t receive it, so I’ll look into it this Monday. I’m sorry.


    your honourable,
    Thank you in advance… i will check my post box.

    Sorry to mind you.

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