Eminent Talk series; Democracy and Rule of law by Michael Rutland
I usually seem to have a pre-concieved idea of my own self, whenever I attend talk like this. This time also I carried my own impure basket. I expected a talk within the parameters of normalcy, nothing interesting but type of talk which usually made stories on the papers. But when this person started to open his lecture I could not help but to admire his wisdom.
Until now I got a feeling that Democracy is perfectly working in Bhutan. Parliamentarians were enacting sensible laws but today I was shown how misled my understanding was. Things are not alright. I saw them fine through my narrow sense of analysis. His eminence started with questions like, Can democracy exist without a rule of the law?, do totalitarian states have rules of law?.
Infact democracy need a clear set of rule of law to protect the minority from the majority and the procedural laws to operate the democracy itself. Democracy without a rule of law will fall into chaos. Merely having a democratic form of government doesnt gaurantee a good rule of law. Rules of law had been there in totalitarian states like Hitlers dictatorship. Infact Hitler and Benito Mussolini had been brought to power through democratic processes. Portugal is a country which was ruled by a dictator but had a an examplary progress. Therefore it isnt a gaurantee that democracy promotes an egalitarian society.
Democracies often have laws which are made for the sake of making. For instance a person has to serve a prison term of five years just for smoking a cigarrete which is nowhere found in the world. A case of a consensual romantic affair between a young couple in Paro. The boy was sent to prison for 3 years because the girl was just 17 and a half years old. Such mockeries of laws cannot take us to the true states of a democratic ideals.
Democracy is a word which has roots in the greek words demos- citizens and cratos-power , meaning peoples power. His eminence contends that there is no true democracy in essence anywhere. The first democracy was there in Athens at around 508 BC. Then there was an assembly of men called acclesia which met every after 8 days to discuss the issues. There were no judges, all the people above the age of 30 were judges. They picked all their ministers by nominating themselves but the they were subject to scrutiny and if found inefficient had even faced execution, so getting the nomination was a huge self responsibility in itself. All the men had their stake in the affairs of the state. There was peoples power in essence. There was no agenda of winning the next election.
But in modern democracies be it old or young the role of the citizens are reduced to the casting of the votes at the end of five year term. Once elected all the power is rested in the hands of the few, this is not an ideal of a true democracy.
There were no parties then in the Athens democracy. The parties in The UK are a result of existence of different interest groups. There were the labour party to represent labourers and the conservative party to represent employers. They already had divisions and so parties were their representations. On the contrary Bhutan was such a small nation which believed in the slogan "one nation one people" having no divisions. But in the wake of parliamentary democracy law required the formation of parties which divided the otherwise united nation. Even within the family people had fights for the fact that they enlisted into different parties. His eminence suggests that for Bhutan there is no need to have parties, rather can make do with just nominations straightaway and then appoint the primeminister and ministers from amongst the elected members. Sometimes, Bhutanese seems to have borrowed everything from the old democracies not rationalizing the need. But it is still young and can mature in due course of time.