Dissolving the government

In his inaugural address last Friday, the Speaker announced that the government has proposed for the early dissolution of the National Assembly.

According to Article 10, Section 24 of the Constitution:

“… While the National Council shall complete its five-year term, premature dissolution of the National Assembly may take place on the recommendation of the Prime Minister to the Druk Gyalpo …”

So yes, the government can recommend the dissolution of the National Assembly before the completion of its term.

The government can do so. But they should not. Why? Because, the government is forcing early elections for their own narrow interests, not for the greater interests of the nation. And that is a bad precedent.

The government’s main excuse for forcing early elections – that, otherwise, the monsoons would interfere with the elections – is nonsense. That’s for ECB to decide, not the government. And the ECB has not even hinted that the monsoons could compromise their ability to conduct this year’s elections.

The government’s other excuse for forcing early elections – that, otherwise, the 11th Five Year Plan would suffer – is absurd. Surely, forcing early elections by 4 to 5 weeks cannot affect a whole five-year plan. Besides, an interim government along with the entire civil service will continue working on the 11th Plan during the three months leading up to the elections.

The government should be honest. They should admit that they want to dissolve the National Assembly before the completion of its term to force early elections. And that they want to force early elections to ensure an easy, perhaps even complete, victory in the upcoming elections.

The ruling party is ready for the elections. During the past six months, the government and their MPs have used their powers of incumbency to prepare for the elections. On the other hand, the new parties have only just received permission to “introduce” themselves to the people. To make matters worse, all the other parties, including the opposition, are still scrambling to finalize their candidates for the elections.

Early elections would favour the ruling party disproportionately. If they want to use that advantage, that’s their business. But they should not pull the wool over our eyes, they should not mislead the nation.

One more thing, the ruling party should remember that the people elected them to serve a five-year term. By dissolving the National Assembly ahead of its term, for their immediate electoral gain and not for the overall national good, they are essentially defaulting on their mandate to serve the people for five complete years. And that is a terrible precedent.

Good ideas

Reports by BBS have confirmed recent rumours that Dasho Penjor Dorji and Dr Tandin Dorji are each starting a political party. That is good news. The next parliamentary elections will take place in 2013, in less than two years. So if we are to have more than two political parties by then – if we are to have a primary round of elections the next time around – it’s time to start openly working to establish new parties.

The reports about new political parties in the offing should also be received as very good news, as new parties will offer that much more political choice to our voters. Our country still has only two parties – DPT and PDP – and, so far, both of them have refused, and failed, to set themselves apart ideologically. The entry of new political parties will, hopefully, provide clearer and more substantive ideological alternatives to our voters, alternatives that are essential for our fledgling democracy.

Dasho Penjor and Dr Tandin have both been politically active. Dasho Penjor had tried to start the Bhutan National Party in 2007. He also played a key role in the merger of BNP, BPUP and APP to form the current ruling party, DPT.

Dr Tandin was PDP’s candidate in the 2008 elections representing Lingmukha-Toewang constituency. After the elections, he co-authored “Drukyul Decides”, a book in which he chronicles the events of the 2008 elections.

I wish them, and their new parties, success.