The Constitution includes many provisions designed to ensure a system of governance serving the best interests of the people. It is a constitutional duty to provide a system of good governance, promote efficiency and the betterment of the nation. Bhutan has a representative government based on the principle articulated by K. Loewenstein that political action is only possible for the people when members of Parliament are instructed and given the power to take action together through their collective decisions. The executive is a branch of government charged with administering and carrying out the implementation of policies and laws. Executive power is vested in the Lhengye Zhungtshog, which consists of the ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

At the time of the Zhabdrung, the Governors had to assemble in Punakha, once every three years, to take decisions regarding the affairs of the State.  His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, The Third Druk Gyalpo, formally initiated the institution of the Cabinet or Lhengye Zhungtshog in 1969. When His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the Throne, the Lhengye Zhungtshog was changed to Co-ordination Committee. Later, it was again restored to Lhengye Zhungtshog. In 1998, His Majesty devolved all executive powers to the Lhengye Zhungtshog headed by a chairperson, who was the Prime Minister.

A government must pursue public policies to provide employment, goods and steady income and a way of life that people would cherish. It must pursue to find the best way of advancing these public policies into public goods and other public services such as parks, policing, scientific research, mass transportation and  clean environment, etc. Bhutan under democracy envisages a Democratic Executive Government that would satisfy a stable and responsible executive.

At the core of pluralistic theory is the assumption that the competitive fight for influence should not be pursued in an unruly manner, but through a constructive process based on compromise with the aim of reaching a satisfactory outcome for all. Nevertheless, it is not assumed that this is a natural process completely capable of controlling itself, which will ultimately lead to an ideal form of harmony, but rather the State is responsible for identifying weaknesses in the process and intervening in a regulatory way.

Despite the fact that it is widely claimed that the executive carries the law into effect, it must be borne in mind that the executive power must be derived either from the Constitution or from the laws.  Nonetheless, executive power cannot be exclusive, as discretionary decisions are subject to the discipline of a judicial review. In the case of Bhutan, the government has limited power. Public service is the duty of an elected person.

Under the parliamentary form of democracy, the representative government should neither be autocratic nor too feeble nor subject to fragmentation and instability. Therefore, the two-party system was introduced to secure national cohesion and stability, and to avoid a split in Parliament. This provision barricades independence fuelled by artificial zeal and alienation fed by distrust and separation caused by fundamental differences. It is a conscious effort of Bhutan, which in Professor Andrew Mac-Intyre’s words:  “…to devise a Constitution which will prevent power from being so concentrated that it facilitates dictatorial Government, but also prevent power from being so fragmented that it leads to ineffectual and unworkable Government.”

Its roles should continue to evolve. Being a representative and democratic government, the citizens must play a proactive role in the formation of said government. In order to fulfil the aspirations of her people, and for the success of democracy in the country, Bhutan needs a sound party system focused on providing good governance. According to Adam Smith, as society moved from Mercantilism to Commercial Capitalism, the role of the government changed from that of national defence, protection of the members of the society from injustices or oppression, erection and maintenance of public work and public institutions in the society to a utilitarian supported representative democracy to make the interest of the government coincide with the general interest.

Hence, the government must ensure peace, pursue individual and national security, and work for the well-being and happiness of the Bhutanese. A weak government cannot control law and order, and terrorism. His Majesty said:

“What is important is that the Government is the Government of the people. If the so called Government works only towards their own benefits, the purpose of having a democratic Government has failed. What we need is a stable Government which is strong and who will work in the interest of the country and meet the aspirations of the people.”

Well-being is incorporated in the preamble of the Constitution. Popular use of it usually relates to health. It is a kind of value, sometimes called ‘prudential value.’ John Rawls argues from this ‘original position’: “That we would choose exactly the same political liberties for everyone, like freedom of speech, the right to vote and so on. Also, we would choose a system where there is only inequality because that produces incentives enough for the economic well-being of all society, especially the poorest.”

Governance has duty to foster happiness. Elucidating this concept, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck said:

“In order to strengthen the country’s foundation, first and foremost, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness focusing on the socio-economic development and good governance. Moreover, during these thirty years of His Majesty’s reign, the country’s foundation had been fully strengthened and achieved taking the sovereignty of the country and the interest of the people into consideration. Likewise, when we have such an opportunity, we should not squander away the opportunity but should seize it and work with dedication to further enhance and strengthen our country. 

“Our vision, simply put, is expressed in the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. And what is our end- objective when we talk about Gross National Happiness? It is to ensure that we have a just, equal, and harmonious society. When our people are able to live happy and secure lives, we know that we have achieved our objectives. That is what Gross National Happiness means.”

Government must provide enlightened administration to ensure peace, progress and security through social empowerment and political, economic and spiritual advancement taking cognizance of social imperatives and freedom of choice.   The idea of constitutionalism is about limiting government power to do wrong and avoid the miscarriage of justice.  Elective government cannot act unconscionably or illegally.  They cannot for example, destroy the environment, plunder national resources and/or enrich the few through extortion or any other criminal activity undertake any act that shall be inconsistent with Parliamentary democracy and Democratic Governance. The Royal Government of Bhutan may remember Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who said:

“If beings do not have happiness, there is no point in the hierarchy of the Drukpa upholding the doctrine of the dual system. Therefore, upholding the precious doctrine in one’s heart, it is necessary to enact legal observances.” 

Contributed by

Justice Sonam Tobgye (Retired)