Respecting the opposition – lesson from Bhutan


I visited Bhutan 13-18 March 2011 as a part of a community project with a group of educators.

My first impression of Bhutan is from the Druk Airlines (the Bhutanese airline and the only airlines to fly into Bhutan) magazine while flying in from Bangkok. A simple introduction page of the symbols of Bhutan caught my attention. There were the photographs of four key persons in the country – the current king, the chief abbot, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. I cannot think of another country that would put the leader of the opposition in the publication of a national airline in the same manner as three other obviously important persons in the country.

Bhutan had their first parliamentary elections in 2008, when the fourth king initiated and handed powers voluntarily to a democratically elected parliament, and even worded into the constitution himself to allow parliament to remove a king by a vote of no confidence should any king fail in his duties. It’s a wonderful lesson for world leaders on how to be graceful to others even when in power. There’s respect for the opposition and the role they play in this newly democratic country. As Singapore enters into GE2011, I wonder if such respect and fairplay will be accorded to the opposition.

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