Democracy festival to be initiated as a yearly feature

Democracy: With the signing of the Bhutan Democracy Dialogue (BDD) charter recently, no political parties are expected to be seen as opposing forces to each other, but rather as ‘machineries’ for better governance.

“Following two elections, Bhutan is already experiencing ills of democracy related to division amongst the society along party lines, mistrust for politicians and certain elements of disharmony in society,” Lily Wangchuk, Chairperson of BDD told Kuensel.

The formation of the association of five political parties of Bhutan comes at the backdrop of the recent challenges in post democratic era to serve as a joint platform for political parties.

To convert its vision into reality, BDD has drawn up programmes for 2015, envisioning nurturing and strengthening of democracy in Bhutan.

In joining the nation in celebrating the 60th birth anniversary of the fourth Druk Gyalpo, the architect of Bhutanese democracy, BDD will initiate a democracy festival. The festival, thereafter, will become an annual event involving political parties, civil society organizations (CSOs) and media.

The BDD will also carry out various activities to celebrate the Constitution Day to support and promote vibrant democracy.

The BDD Charter was signed on November 14 by the representatives of the five political parties and the election commission of Bhutan (ECB). The association aims to ensure development of political institutions and systems of political parties to be able to engage in meaningful activities that would promote a healthy democratic culture.

BDD will also support and promote engagement, cooperation and partnerships between political parties and relevant stakeholders. Lily Wangchuk, who is also the president of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, said the programmes will greatly enhance dialogue and better understanding not only between political parties but also with related stakeholders.

“BDD believes it can provide a common platform for all political parties for building greater understanding amongst them, thereby contributing towards more harmonious political environment and vibrant democracy,” Lily Wangchuk said.

The vision of BDD is to develop a mature democratic culture with the mission to promote vibrant democracy in keeping with the will of the people wherein political parties engage in dialogue, cooperation and partnership as “Bhutanese First”.

BDD will also support building of human and institutional capacity of the political parties to strengthen and nurture the Bhutanese Democracy and support and promote engagement, cooperation and partnership between Political Parties and relevant stakeholders.

“As the youngest democracy, the partnership will make a significant impact on the broader democratic dynamics of the country,” Lily Wangchuk said.

She said the multi-party dialogue is extremely important for the development of the political discourse. “Besides, it could serve a number of useful functions. Political space for political parties to explore issues of interest to both themselves as parties and the country as a whole in an open manner is key in national development.”

According to her, interparty dialogue platforms can function as a neutral space for political parties to address the collective interest of parties, strategise on issues that will benefit the country.

Parties can practice multi-party democracy, overcome differences of opinion and more importantly build trust and friendship amongst our people which otherwise gets affected as people get divided along party lines Through such multi-party dialogue.

“We are fully committed to build a democratic culture through dialogue and in making meaningful contribution to national issues, rather than just serving as electoral vehicles during elections.”

The composition of the steering committee of BDD comprises president/vice president or his/her nominee of each political party and a general secretary each from the registered political parties and two members from ECB headed by a chair who will be elected bi-annually by the members of the committee.

The steering committee elected Lily Wangchuk as the first Chair to the BDD who will head the steering committee for the first six months and contribute towards creating a strong foundation for BDD.

The idea of BDD was initiated by the five registered political parties in Bhutan and goes beyond politics to nurture democracy and bring on broad common concerns sharing common goals. BDD is an initiative conceptualized in 2014 jointly by all the registered Political Parties of Bhutan.

By MB Subba