Democracy was introduced by the fourth King of Bhutan in 2008. By 2013, the small kingdom in the Himalayas has taken important steps towards democratic consolidation with free and fair elections in both 2008 and 2013, and a media and civil society landscape emerging to support a democratic political culture rooted in the concept of Gross National Happiness.
With the 2013 elections, Bhutan has not only experienced a peaceful transfer of power from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) to the the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but has also achieved a greater balance of power between government and opposition and the emergence of three new political parties: the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) and the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP).
The very first Local Government Elections in Bhutan was held in June 2011. The results were most imbalanced from a gender perspective, leaving female representation at only 6.9 %. In the second Local Government Elections in September 2016 there was an increase in female representation, however there is still some way to go in order to ensure gender balance in the governance of Bhutan.
To support the democratic transition in Bhutan, DIPD has since 2011 supported a range of organizations and initiatives. We have especially focused on the political participation of women, but also supported media and research initiatives to support a democratic political culture in Bhutan. All DIPD partnerships in Bhutan are funded through the pool for multiparty activities.
Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW)
BNEW is a network for current and aspiring women in politics at both national and local level. The network was established with the support of DIPD following a national conference for women in politics in Paro in March 2012 and seeks to support the skills, network and confidence of women in politics through training and networking activities. The BNEW is run by a National Steering Group consisting of 12 current and former female political leaders supported by a small secretariat.
KCD Productions – ‘Bhutan Women Forward’ and ‘Yes Madam Prime Minister’
With the support of DIPD, KCD has launched two media projects focused on women in politics: ”Yes Madam Prime Minister” (2011-2012) and ”Bhutan Women Forward”(2013). “Yes Madam Prime Minister” was launched in September 2012, and include a Radio Drama Series, TV Spots, an on Forum and, not least, the documentary ‘Yes, Madam Minister’ (“La, Aum Lyonchen”), which also features a range of prominent women in politics in Denmark. “Bhutan Women Forward” was launched in October 2013 and consists of the documentary film “Bhutan Women Forward” and educational material “Raise Your Hand” by KCD Productions.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy
BCMD seeks to promote and foster a culture of democracy via three core programme areas: Strengthening media and democracy literacy, expanding public discussion, and resource/knowledge production. The DIPD supported activities include sensitisation of information focal persons on the role of media and citizenship in democracy and training in information sharing, forums to bring together elected political leaders, civil society and press to discuss different areas of democracy, and the production of different knowledge products on media and democracy.
Centre for Research Initiatives
To help foster accountability of the political parties for the policies and bills introduced by them, DIPD approved a research project by the Center for Research Initiatives in Thimphu. The book “Democracy in Bhutan. The first five years 2008-13″ by Senior Researcher at CRI, Gyambo Sithey, was launched in October 2013. The book is the first systematic analysis of the major events and achievements of the first democratically elected government and parliament, following the elections in 2008. In 11 chapters, the author Gyambo Sithey takes the reader on a journey through themes like: the social political context of the new democracy; the pledges of the first government; the controversial Constituency Development Grant scheme; the relationship between the two houses of Parliament; the performance of the opposition party; the development of the media sector; and much more.