On November 24, the Chief Election Commissioner and the DIPD Director signed an agreement for DIPD support for BDD 2014-17. Later the Steering Committee for BDD had its first ordinary meeting.
Report by Bjørn Førde, DIPD Director
At its meeting in September, the Board of DIPD approved a proposal to support the Bhutan Democracy Dialogue – consisting of all five registered political parties and the Election Commission of Bhutan. The proposal amounts to 1,2 million Danish kroner over the three year period, making it possible for the political parties together to build capacity to contribute more forcefully to the deepening of democracy in the still young democracy.
One result of a study tour to Denmark in June 2014
On this occasion, the Chief Election Commissioner and the DIPD Director formally signed the agreement, recognizing that this is yet another milestone in the development of a vibrant multiparty democracy in Bhutan. DIPD has been engaging on various activities since the end of 2011, but the establishment of the BDD platform has made it possible to support the capacity development of the parties as well as the political party system.
The Chief Election Commissioner expressed his appreciation for the study tour to Denmark in June 2014, which was helpful in shaping the idea of a forum consisting of all the political parties. When returning from Denmark, the parties agreed to take this initiative, and the Election Commission of Bhutan agreed to be support and facilitate it. This resulted in a Charter for BDD being signed on 14 November, outlining the vision of BDD as well as the governance structure.
Lily Wangchuk from DCT elected first Chair of BDD
Following the signing of the agreement, the first ordinary meeting of the BDD took place at the office of the Election Commission of Bhutan. Among the items on the agenda were the election of the first Chair, as well as the discussion of the work plan for 2015.
Each of the five registered political parties in Bhutan have appointed two members to the Steering Committee, all of them being senior members of their party – like a President or Vice President and a Secretary General. Among these representatives, the members then elect a Chair on a biannual basis, ensuring that the post circulates among the parties.
In this first round of election, two parties had nominated a candidate – both being women in fact. And both nominated candidates represented parties that are presently not represented in the National Assembly. This should be seen as a recognition by the two major parties in the Assembly of the importance of making the BDD platform a genuine forum for multiparty democracy.
When votes were counted – following electronic vote by the same machines normally used in the parliamentary elections – it turned out that a majority had voted for the President of the Druk Chinwang Tshogpa party, Ms Lily Wangchuch. Her major task and challenge will now be to get the BDD operational, and to develop the first annual work plan before the end of the year.
Ms Lily Wangchuk, President of DCT, first Chair of BDD
DIPD as the ‘midwife’ of BDD
In his opening remarks to the Steering Committee, the DIPD Director congratulated the political parties and the Election Commission of this achievement. He said:
“This is a major achievement in the political history of multiparty democracy in Bhutan. If DIPD has had a small role as a ‘midwife’ in giving birth to this child, we are indeed proud of this. We will be happy to help this child get a good start in life, but we do not consider ourselves to be neither mother or father, so we will not be around forever, as would be the case with parents.
“Personally I had hoped for something like this when DIPD started to work with Bhutan at the end of 2011, but knowing how difficult it is to develop party platforms, I had not expected it this soon. I believe the study tour to Denmark in June 2014 was helpful, not least because this was based on your own concept note, expressing your own understanding of your needs.
“This also encapsulates the DIPD understanding of what a genuine partnership is all about. It is about ideas rather than money; about listening rather than telling; about supporting rather than directing; about friendship rather than donorship. And I hope the relationship between BDD and DIPD will continue to be like this for years to come.
Bjørn Førde, Director of DIPD presenting DIPD posters to the parties