The birth of democracy
Many believe that Bhutan’s experiment with democracy is new. That is not all true. The democratic principles were inherent in the system since the late sixties. What happened in 2008 was these principles were given institutional framework and democratic structure through a universal suffrage.
During the reign of the Third King, the National Assembly was established. The National Assembly included the people’s representatives who discussed development activities and planned the five year plans.
The system of governance was also highly decentralized with Dzongkhag Yargay Tshodge (District development committee) and Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (Block development committee) making grassroots decisions related to development and administration.
However, a parliamentary system of democracy was introduced in Bhutan in 2008. A uniqueness to this transition is that democracy did not happen through popular movements as in most other countries. Democracy in Bhutan was initiated by the Fourth King of Bhutan in spite of the people’s resistance to this political transformation. Therefore the Bhutanese call democracy a ‘gift from the throne’.
Today Bhutanese democracy is more than a year old with a written constitution, a parliament consisting of the National Assembly (Lower House) and National Council (upper house), with elected representatives. The Fifth king of Bhutan is first Constitutional monarch.