Promoting democracy

The panel discussion may have been too short. Politicians may have dominated the discussions. And the exchange of views and ideas may have been less than thorough. Still the interactive session, between students and MPs, that was organized by BBS to mark the International Day of Democracy was useful. At the very least, our students understood that it was okay to express their concerns, and question their representatives. Better still, politicians and young citizens could have, together, learnt that democracy is, ultimately, about accountability to the public.

It’s been 18 months since our first general elections. That’s 18 months since the Golden Throne gifted our people with full powers of government. 18 months since our people entrusted these powers to elected representatives. 18 months since the complete introduction of democracy in our country.

Eighteen months is a long time. It’s 30% of the five-year term of office. And that’s enough time to make democracy’s presence felt.

So to celebrate democracy, I ask you a straightforward question: How has democracy changed your life?

I first posed this question, to a senior civil servant, about a year ago. He answered that democracy had, indeed, bought about many changes. That we have political parties; that we have elected representatives in Parliament; and that we have a bicameral legislature. “True, true” I replied, “but what changes has democracy bought to you, as a person: a civil servant, a husband and a father?” He didn’t reply.

More recently, during the “Democracy in our Place” workshop in Paro, Her Royal Highness, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck commanded that, for democracy to succeed in Bhutan, “…it must be relevant to the lives of the citizens, and most importantly it must be beneficial to them.”

And just last week, I asked the question again: How has democracy changed your life? I was meeting the political science students at the Royal Thimphu College.

So just how has democracy changed your life? I wonder how the students at the BBS panel discussion would have responded.