The attention of the media in the last few weeks has been on BKP but the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), which was the third largest party in 2013, announced this week that it has already selected 40 out of the 47 candidates for the 2018 polls.
DNT General Secretary Tenzin Lekphell claimed that there was in fact competition for the seats and DNT had to select the candidates out of multiple applications for each seat.
He said that for the remaining around seven seats some potential candidates were working in the government and did not want to be revealed right now while in other cases there were yet to be confirmations.
The current DNT President Dr Tandin Dorji said that they were very confident and prepared about their chances in the 2018 polls.
He said that in 2013 DNT, even as a new party, had got around 17% of the votes and DNT has built further on it.
He said that the PDP as the ruling government would face anti-incumbency and DPT is facing its own set of ‘issues’ not naming but indirectly alluding to the sedition case. He said that when it came to BKP its new President Dasho Neten Zangmo would have an impact on her constituency but not as much on the national electorate.
The President said that DNT has been working right after the 2013 polls and it is confident that it has eroded the support based of the current two parties in Parliament.
Dr Tandin said that DNT in its interaction found that people want change, and the feeling among people is that no one party should stay in power for too long.
He said that in 2008 the former DPT Party President and Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley had won the elections for DPT, but in 2013 it had changed as the current Prime Minister had not won the elections on his personality. Dr Tandin said that in 2018 the elections should and would not be based on personality but the quality of the team and candidates to represent the people’s voice in the Parliament.
According to the DNT, the party is already working on its manifesto and the first draft should be ready within a month.
As a part of its manifesto drafting, DNT has been meeting with different groups of people like BCCI, Taxi drivers association, Bhutanese living in Jaigaon etc and asking them about their problems and potential solutions.
In its meeting with Journalists in the Journalists Association of Bhutan office the DNT asked for solutions to solving the problems of journalists focused mainly around sustainability. The DNT promised to come up with a plan for the media in its manifesto.
Tenzin Lekphell said that DNT is also confident of its chances this time around as the last time in 2013 it had only three months to work and campaign but yet it did fairly well. He said this time the party has kept up its presence since 2013 and has been working since then.
He said DNT has also been meeting groups of people or the ‘underclass’ whose voice has not been heard and this would be reflected in the manifesto.
DNT has been known for looking for high profile party presidents to lead them in elections. When a question was posed to them on the issue both the current Party President and General Secretary said that a final President or Prime Ministerial candidate would be selected through voting at the party convention.
Dr Tandin said he would throw in his hat for the post while Lekphell in a clear indication that the search is still on said that even someone currently not in the party can be considered for the post once he or she joins the party.
The DNT made it clear that if DNT was elected then the Prime Ministerial candidate would resign from the Presidents post to take up the job of PM while a separate President would be elected to ensure check and balance.
There was also some animated discussion on a question by a free lance journalist about DNT’s seven candidates joining PDP in 2013 and if it may happen again in 2018.
Here DNT party manager Phurba said that in 2013 after the Primary rounds given the results of DPT wining in 33 seats, everyone thought DPT is going to win.
Phurba said after the primary DNT’s candidates were approached by both DPT and PDP.
However, he said the seven DNT candidates decided to join PDP on the basis of strengthening the Opposition and democracy. He said at the time the intention of these candidates was to increase the opposition MPs as there were only two Opposition MPs from 2008 to 2013.
“Now if PDP lost and became the Opposition then DNT’s then candidates would be praised today with people saying they strengthened the Opposition but since PDP won these issues have come out,” said Phurba.
Phurba also pointed out that fact that the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa had given a candidate to the DPT who won and is now in Parliament.
The DNT President said that the ECB in 2013 had called for a meeting of DPT, PDP and DNT but there DNT had pointed out that winning candidates of losing party in the Primary round can join another party based on the Election Act passed by the former DPT government.
It was pointed out the law allowing such movement was based on the understanding that the people of the constituency should not suffer the loss of a good candidate just because the candidate’s party lost the overall primary round.
However, the current DNT President made it clear that such a scenario would not arise in the 2018 polls.
In response to a question the DNT sad that it would combat regionalism in Bhutanese politics in 2018. They said one way is to have a good team representing different regions instead of a personality centric party which can contribute to regionalism.