Primary democracy in Bhutan can become mature
The Beijing News: Do you think Bhutanese "Strong-man democracy" can be successful? Some observers fear that instability and political corruption may happen to Bhutan, like the cases in some South Asian countries.
Sun Shihai: Many factors are influencing Bhutan. The favorable ones are the success of India's democratic reforms, and there is also something positive to learn from Nepal. Definitely, India will support Bhutan strongly in terms of moral justice, spirit and materials, and even send experts to help Bhutan. Furthermore, the King has voluntarily shared power with other forces, thus obtaining Bhutan more respect and support from international communities.
The Beijing News: What about the negative factors?
Sun Shihai: The unfavorable factors come mainly from its social foundation. There is great distance between a traditional social structure and a democratized society. Surely it is hard for Bhutanese to adapt to these new changes, so controversies between society and political system will occur.
Take India for example; a parliamentary system has existed there for more than 50 years, but they still have lots of problems. The caste system is the most backward, most humiliating system in India yet some political groups use it to canvass for votes. The result is that the power of political group is strengthened but not that of a certain class. In a truly democratic system, the power of certain political group should be weakened, and political parties should obtain approval through their ideology.
The Beijing News: Political parties in Bhutan have only recently organized so their differences regarding respective governing principles are not so distinct. Don't you think this will harm democratic reform?
Sun Shihai: Actually, the Indian case may also reflect that of Bhutan. It is great progress for Bhutan to carry out democratic reform under their traditional social structure. It cannot be excluded that this reform will bring many problems that may influence political stability. Democracy is a good thing, and Bhutan has to pay the price. Viewed optimistically, with the support of the domestic upper society and international communities, Bhutan's primary democracy can mature gradually.
The Beijing News
: As the leader of this reform, the King controls the army. Suppose someday that the elected head of government collides with the King's vested interests, would it be possible for the king to hinder reforms?
Sun Shihai: In many countries, King is the generalissimo. In Bhutan, the role of the army is not so significant. If someday the elected government of Bhutan were as powerful as that of Britain, the Prime Minister would control the army, and King would become a symbol of the state. It's quite common to adjust political systems in some countries.
Wang Zhanyang: Democracy in Bhutan is actually a "half constitutional monarchy". The king may occupy the throne until he is 65 at most. The parliament is also endowed with the power to impeach the King. If more than two thirds of the senators agree to impeach the King, he must resign, so this system guarantees that the King cannot hinder reform.
The Beijing News: What may cause resistance to reform?
Sun Shihai: Distribution of profits. Democratic reform may impair the interests of some groups. At present, besides the royal family, there are no other obvious interest groups in Bhutan. If the elected parliament doesn't pass a certain law to confiscate the fortune of lord proprietors and patrons, reform will advance smoothly. After all, Bhutanese people belittle fortune because of their Buddhist beliefs.