The JYT Factor for Bhutanese Democracy

Jigmi Y Thinley

Principles and ideology of democracy are to create collective leadership based on quality and capability. Every individual in a nation has the power to shape the future of that nation. Democracy gives everyone to lead and everyone to be led. In simpler terms, it is a form of governance to replace the feudalism that remained dominant for several centuries.

However, it does not work that way in all times. It is easier said than done. Ideology in application produces contradictory results. Look at the Kennedy, Bush or Clinton families in the US; Nehru-Gandhi, Yadav and several other families in India, Bismark in Germany, Castro in Cuba, Springs in Britain, Hussein in Iraq, Hatoyama in Japan, Arsian in Lebanon, Bhutto in Pakistan, Kim in North Korea or Seikh in Bangladesh. Peter A Corning calls this a bio-politics. Dominance of few families in a democracy is seen normal. I call it a dynasty democracy.

But in essence, it kills the basic nature of democracy. Family dominant democracy is no different to feudalist form of government. It is just like going around the circle from the other direction.

As we Bhutanese prepare to shape our future with democracy, it is unlikely we can avoid this very nature in politics. Bhutanese democracy is still in embryonic form. It takes another few decades before we can actually feel if democracy really works for us. It would be immature to make comments whether we are building a stronger foundation for democracy or a weaker one. This intensity will be measured over time and it remains within the circle of consciousness among Bhutanese citizens.

While general Bhutanese are yet to learn what democracy meant for them, elite and “educated” section of this nation have already started murmuring over a person’s or family’s politics in Bhutan. JYT is at the center of all these informal discussion now.

Elevation of JYT as an advocate of Gross National Happiness to be an international figure is not acceptable for many. Of course, his elevation obviously produced ripples through Bhutanese politics and none can challenge his position in Bhutanese democracy in near future. However, what Bhutanese in general and JYT himself should realise the fact that individual domination in politics is symptoms of democracy dying or at least not working effectively.

Already few parties are waiting the move of JYT in the upcoming election. There are speculation whether he would continue to rule Bhutanese democracy for the next term – of course he can’t thereafter due to constitutional provisions. The first theory surrounding around him says he will quit politics due to his age factor – that he cannot complete his second term if he abides by the conditional provision to resign from public office at the age of 65.

The second theory revolves around his engagement with UN as mastermind of Gross National Happiness theory. When the panel of experts submit report on happiness to the UN by mid next year, it is likely the UN forming a commission to execute the recommendations. JYT has possibility of getting that job as lead commissioner.

Third theory is linked with his alleged association with land forgery. Though the allegations have not been proven in a court, revelation of his involvement in many such illegal activities substantially demoralised him to continue serving as the country’s prime minister. If he believes he is not guilty in all those (mis)conducts, it is prime time he paves way for impartial investigation.

The emerging political groups and the media, knowingly or unknowingly, are shaping Bhutanese democracy that revolves around JYT. Most new political groups claim their philosophy promotes collective leadership, yet they are giving unnecessary importance to JYT, thus creating individual-dominated democracy. This is gradual evolution of dynasty politics in Bhutan. Other family members of JYT are not in political limelight, though we cannot ignore the possibility of their involvement seeing the political dominance JYT created by now.

Since our politics is heavily influenced by India, no matter how much we resist, we adopt that culture, that system and that phenomenon. A popular writer Patrick French, in one of his interviews with Financial Express had mentioned that 70 percent of women MPs in India are hereditary, two-thirds of MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary, an overwhelming nine-tenths of Congress MPs under 40 are hereditary.

Bhutan cannot avoid this influence. What we can do is how much power can we let such new dynasties to exercise. The tall figures in DPT, the ultimate factor for the sweeping win in 2008 election, are likely to establish foundation for family politics in Bhutan. They have been in power for many years and are likely to be there for many years to come.

As we approach nearer to the second general election, Bhutanese democratic patriots much make their cautious steps to work in the spirit of democratic principles. Let Bhutanese democracy not create the culture of dynasty politics. We must together realise that not only those already in power are best to serve the country, there are hundreds others genius brains waiting for the opportunity to make Bhutanese democracy work better.


Contributed by: Sonam Dorji “Chagey”


Bhutanomics Contributor
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  1. The article is not much appreciable…written by man loyal to no leaders and flags

  2. Pema Palden Dorji says:

    we need no loyalty in this country, we should promote genuine love for our country and no one else. People seeking loyalty are suckers, suckers of our GDP. Imagine more than 50% of our GDP goes to people who rules Bhutan and hence the crisis

  3. Seki Deki says:

    appreciated! digging deep into facts and their results. willing to see similar posts in future as well.

  4. JYT, my old man, you will get a good job at UN, much much better than HPM in Bhutan.

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