A unique example

Last year, in Sherubste College, a student asked me: “We’ve been told, many times, that democracy in Bhutan is unique – please tell me how it is unique.”

The fact of the matter is that all democracies are based on, more or less, the same principles, and none can claim to be really unique. But, on the other hand, no two democracies are exactly the same, making every democracy, unique in its own way. So to claim that our particular form of democracy is unique, in the way it is structured for example, would not make much sense.

But in one regard we are unique, and in another we must aspire to be so.

We are truly unique in the way democracy was introduced in our country – gifted, so to speak, from the Golden Throne to the people. This, we must never forget. And always celebrate.

And we must aspire to be unique in another way: in the quality of politicians that we elect. In every democracy, politicians are viewed with suspicion. They are considered, and many times proven, to be a greedy, corrupt and power-hungry lot who will go to any length to win, but who, once elected, can’t be trusted to keep their promises.

So this was my reply to the very concerned Sherubtse student: “If you want a unique democracy, insist that our politicians are unique. Insist that they empathize with the common people and that they serve them with humility. Insist that they keep their promises – that they actually walk the talk. Insist that they are the champions of our democracy. And the role models for our youth. Insist that they are unique. Then, and only then, we’ll have a unique democracy.”

Why do I remember Sherubtse? Because today, 24th March, is exactly one year since we elected 47 people to the National Assembly. So it is a fitting time to reflect if we, politicians, are fulfilling His Majesty’s vision for a vibrant and honest democracy. And to see if we, politicians, are living up to the hopes and aspirations of our people. To consider if our politicians are unique.

One politician has already proven that he is unique. Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup may have lost the elections last year, but, by all accounts, he has become even more popular. Yet, in spite of his growing popularity and the strong appeals from all over our country, he resigned as PDP’s president. And he resigned for one reason alone: to take full moral responsibility for his party’s loss in the general elections last year.

Now that, in Bhutan’s context, is unique. And should be emulated by our politicians. Perhaps then, we can claim to have a truly unique democracy.