Last time the Bhutanese went to the polls (2007-2008) was the first time. 80% of the electorate reportedly voted, and they hadn’t even demanded democracy! The King just presented it to them, and asked them to please go to the polls. The party platforms were barely distinguishable from each other, and the citizenry overwhelmingly elected the party that wasn’t related to the King.
The leaders of that party, including the man who became Prime Minister, were not newbies to the scene in Bhutan, though. And now, five years in, it sounds like democracy there morphed very quickly into the garbage we have here in the US.
The irreverent site Bhutanomics, which is banned in Bhutan, sums it up in this editorial:
“….people have realised that this is not democracy. The benefits of democracy were not felt by the people. They did not feel involved in governance, or in the endless changes in government policies. They saw cliques and power centres forming around supposedly elected leaders. People close to the centre of power began to enjoy unimaginable and unjustifiable economic and professional rewards…. People are not looking for an individual leader. They are looking for change.”
Bhutanomics, at least, feels that change will come in the opposition party, who has been lead these last years by Tshering Tobgay. What happens next–we’ll find out soon.
If you want to follow the proceedings, which are starting in just a bit, the BBS has a nice page. So does Kuensel. (Click on some of the candidates just to get a sense of the tone of the race. I’m waiting for the day an American politician describes her/himself as “selfless.”)