The Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley called on the three newly registered political parties yesterday which the party leaders said marked a ‘good precedence’. The party presidents in a press conference yesterday, said pressing issues such as date of general elections, state funding, convenient polling stations were discussed with the PM.
The meeting held in good faith was however devoid of the Opposition Party’s presence.
The President of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), Sonam Tobgay said it was informal discussions and they would discuss this more officially at ECB’s level where there will be common agreement and understanding including both Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
A news release from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated “Lyonchhen formally welcomed the new parties. He congratulated the leaders and said their participation will contribute significantly to deepening democracy and complete an important process of democracy – the primary round of elections. Lyonchhen said that building a political party entails sacrifice and commitment, and conveyed his appreciation to them for having the will and the compassion to serve the people of Bhutan.”
The release also stated that the three new political parties thanked PM for a ‘harmonious interaction’.
Meanwhile, the party presidents said that the Lyonchhen will support early elections for higher voter turnout so that the general elections should not hamper the farmers or anybody else, and therefore the date of election will be in June rather than in July.
Issues raised during the meeting include, funding for political parties to stay afloat and the difficulty in getting candidates. Lyonchhen and the political parties agreed that this is the beginning of many more such meetings and to actively engage in national discourse.
As the opposition party was left out the new parties hope to sit down again with both the founding parties of the country.
The BKP president said in all justice to PDP, they will seek the opposition’s views and see how they can propose this journey toward the cause of nation building and high voter turnouts.
“I am happy to hear that the PM has met the three new political parties. My PDP colleagues and I have also met the new parties: we called on them to congratulate them and offer our best wishes when each of them received their ECB registrations. Some people have suggested that the PM purposely excluded PDP. I don’t know. If the meeting was called just to meet the new parties, then obviously PDP wouldn’t be invited,” said the Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay.
He further said that PDP was the first party to be registered. That said, he is not surprised that the PDP was excluded. “During the past five years and especially after the constitutional case, the government has gone out of its way to exclude the opposition party from taking part in government events,” he added.
Topping it, all the new political parties shared the common problem about stern laws of Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and they pleaded the commission to be little lenient on such laws and let civil servants come back after participating in politics. They also attributed this problem to the rush for candidates. The parties said though not undermining the private sector,most of the experienced and intellectual ones were in the Civil Service. The parties also pleaded for flexibility of RCSC laws and creating conducive environment.
“This will be a very arduous journey,” said the Lyonchhen, after the meeting.
The leaders of the three political parties thanked Lyonchhen for making time to meet them, and for having all the parties come together and engage in a ‘harmonious interaction’.
The release from the PMO stated that Lyonchhen and the three political parties committed themselves to conduct with sincere respect for each other and elevate politics in Bhutan. It also states that the PM urged the parties to work together toward a deeper objective of public service, and demonstrate to the world how cultured and refined Bhutanese politicians are.
“We must believe that all of us are equally committed and if we do believe that, we will be able to respect each other,” Lyonchhen said. “Of course, we will be different in approach or ideas but we will respectfully agree to differ.”
“This meeting with the PM has reinforced BKP’s belief that politics is a sacred duty. It has also made us work towards a healthy democracy and develop mutual interest,” said Sonam Tobgay, President of BKP. He also added that ‘for BKP, politics is beyond elections, we are not only motivated just to win but we will not deter even if we lose. Such meeting is very encouraging and motivating, all parties together has portrayed a good example to the world as well’.
On the other hand, President of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), Lily Wangchhuk said that the process of voting must be made easy by letting electorates vote from the ‘place of residence’. Such meetings will foster better understanding with political parties sitting together and it will set a good precedence. She also reiterated Lyonchhen, that “at the end of the day, irrespective of everything, everyone will serve the country.”
The president of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Dorji Choden said, “we all need to nurture together and think beyond the elections to serve the country.”
The hunt for candidates
The president of BKP argued that it is not an issue with DPT and rather an issue of national interest. He said good party politics and good democracy, needs good people—people with competence, experience and certain level of maturity—and all these, he said are in the civil service and few in the private sector as well.
DCT believes that it is not so much about political parties but a national concern as one wants the right people to be at the right places, obviously those people are in the civil service or higher positions in other corporate organizations, said Lily Wangchhuk.
She added there will be the need for some flexibility in the civil service laws and electoral laws. She believes democracy has been gifted to us and it makes one to have more reasons to make democracy work in our country. “To ensure the success of democracy, the environment has to be conducive, but as of now the environment is not so conducive for a lot of people to come out and adventure into politics,” she said.
“We are almost there in terms of numbers, whether they are the right people I am not sure, but we in terms of numbers we are very comfortable except for one or two constituencies where we still need to fill up,” said the DCT president.
“DNT has faced lot of challenges in filling up its last few positions,” said DNT president, Dorji Choden. “Looking for candidates was a challenge because when people look at the strength of the party, they immediately look at the capability of the candidate. And in terms of getting good candidates with qualification and experience and with good intention to serve, is a definite challenge.”
Puran Gurung / Thimphu