Date: Thursday, June 13th, 2019, 16:30-18:00
Venue: Lecture Room, 4th Floor, The building No.14, Komaba Campus of the University of Tokyo
Speaker: Professor Sonam Kinga
Dr. Sonam Kinga is currently a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Areas Studies (ASAFAS) at Kyoto University, Japan. He is based in Bhutan and teaches at the Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies (since 2013). He was also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba (2002), a founding member of The Centre for Bhutan Studies (1999-2004) and founding Editor of Bhutan Observer, a private newspaper (2006).
He was elected twice to the Upper House of Bhutan’s Parliament called the National Council for two consecutive terms since the introduction of parliamentary democracy. In his first term (2008-13), he was also elected as the Deputy Chairperson and in the second term (2013-2018) as the Chairperson of the Council. He also served on various parliamentary committees.
His area of academic interests are Bhutanese history, literature and politics. Some of his books are Kingship, Polity and Democracy (2009), Changes in Bhutanese Social Structure (2002), Speaking Statues, Flying Rocks (2004) and Gaylong Sumdar Tashi (1999). His forthcoming publications include Democratic transition in Bhutan: political contests as moral battles which will be published by Routeledge. The book is based on his Ph. D dissertation. He earned his Ph.D in Area Studies from ASAFAS in 2010.
He is a distinguished public servant. He has been awarded the Gold Medal (National Order of Merit) in 2014 and the highest honour of Nyikelma (Red Scarf) in 2012 and hence, the title of ‘Dasho’ by His Majesty the King during the National Day Celebrations.
‘DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN BHUTAN: political contest as moral battle’
In the historic elections of Bhutan in 2008, which marked the introduction of parliamentary democracy, only two political parties: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), participated. In absence of ideological differences between them, DPT cast the elections as moral contest between good and evil whereas PDP focused on highlighting change and service delivery. In constructing itself as the good party, DPT deployed symbols and associations with Bhutan’s respected and successful monarchy.
After its electoral victory, DPT re-cast the narrative into an ascribed contest between the powerless and powerful. It projected itself as the powerless one, and went on to undermine some of the King’s constitutionally-defined prerogative as well as royal projects, which were initiated for the long-term benefit of the country and the people. After the end of its tenure in 2013 and the subsequent defeat in the second general elections on 13 July that year, it alleged the palace, among others, as the cause of its defeat. The public but unfounded allegations, which were made during its convention a week later, had left a painful and indelible dent on Bhutan’s national psyche.
Rather than react, the King rose above political pressures so that he continues to represent national unity and support the consolidation of democracy. On 13 March 2019, the United Nations Development Program recognized his leadership for the success of Bhutan’s democracy and presented a special award. This seminar, based on my forthcoming book from Routledge, will analyze political discourse, policies and actions centering on the construction of DPT’s narrative and their expression in everyday politics of the first five years of Bhutanese democracy.
*Please note that the seminar covers the same lecture as the KINDAS 2019 2nd Nepal and Himalayan Studies Seminar on 21 June (Friday), 2019.