Bhutans 'uncertain future' in democracy

The Times of India Online, December 30, 2005

GUWAHATI, Bhutan -- Bhutan's crown prince, who is set to become king in two years, has warned of an "uncertain future" if citizens shirked their responsibilities when the nation shifts from monarchy to a democracy.

Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck (photo, left) was addressing a 3,000-strong crowd of Buddhist clergy, government officials and locals at the remote Kurtoe valley in eastern Bhutan, Bhutan's national newspaper reported.

The address was a part of a nationwide campaign to drum up public support before the kingdom adopts a constitution.

Prince Wangchuck, 25, would be crowned before Bhutan adopts a constitution and elects a Prime Minister in 2008 to become a parliamentary democracy...
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck made a historic announcement two weeks ago to abdicate the throne and hand over power to the crown prince who would then become only a constitutional monarch.

"If people shouldered their responsibilities the constitution would fulfill their needs and aspirations. But if they did not, the future would, in a democratic system, be very uncertain," the crown prince was quoted as saying by Kuensel.

"It was a royal command that the people sit together and discuss the constitution in detail to find ways to make it stronger and better suited to serve the future interest of the country," the crown prince said.

The transition began four years ago when the king handed over the powers of daily government to a council of ministers and empowered the National Assembly to force a royal abdication if the motion was backed by three-quarters of its membership. ...
Bhutan earlier this year unveiled a 34-point constitution, which is now being sent to some 530,000 citizens for their views and is expected to be ratified after a referendum.

Once adopted, the constitution will replace a royal decree of 1953 giving the monarch absolute power. King Wangchuck is the fourth ruler in the Wangchuck dynasty that came to power in December 1907.

The crown prince said the king would continue to play the role of a watchdog in Bhutan, known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, despite the transition from absolute monarchy to democracy.

"Provisions had been commanded (in the constitution) keeping in mind the future of the nation when the role of the monarch would be even more important in safeguarding the interests of the people and the country in a democratic system," the crown prince said...
"During my years at academic institutions abroad, I had the opportunity to study various constitutions and had never seen one with such a comprehensive list of rights as the constitution of Bhutan," said the crown prince.

He also said that Bhutan would never see another 'greater king' like his father. "There has never been a king like His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck in our history and there never would be a greater king ever again," he said.

"To me, personally, His Majesty is my king, my teacher, my inspiration and my Tsawai Lam (root guru)," the crown prince said. "While I am his oldest son, a crown prince, I have never in my life thought of myself as a Prince. I have always been, first and foremost, an ordinary subject whose only duty is to serve my king and country."