In the 2008 general elections an unfortunate impact of the electoral process was that the nation, communities and even families got divided along party lines.
However, it has been observed that as Bhutanese democracy matures over time, its elections have also become more matured with each election being less venomous and more mature.
This was seen in the 2018 elections.
With the 2023 polls on the doorstep The Bhutanese asked the five Party Presidents on if this would be a more mature and less polarized race. The parties are listed in alphabetical order.
Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) President
Dasho Pema Chewang, the President of the BTP said, “Our voters have become more matured now. From the political parties’ front, there is the need to set good standards of politics and work towards restoring peoples’ faith and confidence in our democracy by removing the bad practices of the past and embracing and reinforcing the good ones; BTP will herald a new auspicious beginning, hence the name Tendrel.”
“One of the ways to achieve this would be to work together with the people by listening to their concerns and issues- Your Voice Your Hope is our slogan. So our manifesto will be peoples’ manifesto; it will be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound for the greater good of the people and the nation as a whole.”
Dasho said they will not make unrealistic pledges and promises but commit to fulfilling the need of the people even if it is not included in their pledges.
He said as a responsible political party, BTP will strive to give deeper meaning and understanding to democracy while redefining the barriers of politics and political parties in the country.
In this regard, he said they are happy to learn that people have become wiser over the years and have realized the importance and power of their one vote to make a difference in their own lives and the life of the nation as a whole.
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) President
The DNT President and current Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering said, “While the essence of democracy is differences this is what is expected with time like maturity and responsibility. I can only talk about myself and DNT. We have never been on that side. In governance this is what we have always been talking about that win or lose the nation must win. We must not fight over any issue as if there is no tomorrow. That has always been our stand.”
The PM said it is not just the political parties but individuals polarize and so everybody must be on board.
He said political parties will follow mood of the voters and so any party being aggressive must not be supported and then parties will be naturally be humble and cooperative.
“I have always said that whether inside or outside Parliament the moment we point fingers then our supporters in the village will do the same.”
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) President
The Opposition Leader and President of the DPT Dorji Wangdi said, “There is a political saying that politicians should know philosophy but if politicians act like philosophers then you are dead.”
“I try to be very aware that His Majesty is aspiring to take Bhutan in a big jump or leapfrog from LDC to high income country in the next ten or fifteen years. One thing we should do is understand and rally with this vision. To fulfill this vision, the enabling condition we should create is unity and harmony and this is our priority in whatever we do to the extent that people say that DNT and DPT are so friendly,” said the OL.
“It is not by accident but by purpose. We point out things in the NA, but we do not fight outside and we are as professional as possible. The same applies to the elections. But having said it also depends on the other players. If they kick on us and break our leg then we will also have to kick a little bit,” he added.
He said it will depend on how other actors will play. He said they will try to set a tone that brings more unity and harmony and others will do the same. He said while the supporters know but some don’t know.
He said they feel people know.
“Right now many turn up with Khadars and etc but we think later when they vote they will think. I am optimistic that things will be more cordial and harmonious and everybody understands the need of the hour. The fertile ground for prosperity and pursuing the bigger dream has to be unity and harmony.”
Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) President
The DTT President Kinga Tshering said, “Our hope is that it will be much more matured. For example, one of the values is humility and we do not talk badly others. The other one is value based party and it is all about gaining the trust of the people back, and to do that we have to as far as possible keep away from unreasonable pledges as it leads to people losing trust in us.”
He said this time ECB is coming down hard on the pledges with an independent monitoring expert commission.
“They will review the manifesto pledges and where it is not reasonable they will not allow any party to come up with pledges. It is a healthy trend.”
He, however, said the real heat is not here right now and we will find out only in November.
“For every party we have to train our supporters and well wishers to be decent and well behaved. We can fight a hard battle but on decent terms and conditions and not necessarily going after each other and bad mouthing each other.”
He said they need to have issue based debates and if it as a substantive debate people should not take it personally.
“We should not be offended even if it is against the party.”
He said he thinks the trend will be healthy like in the past trend as the parties involved and supporters have realized.
“It is for us to see we do what we say and say what we do,” he added.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President
The President of the PDP Dasho Tshering Tobgay said, “My hope and prayers is that our country as not polarized and not as divided as frankly speaking, what might be, for the two reasons. The main reason is that we are all serving under the unifying force of His Majesty The King. There is no reason to be polarized. The second reason is that all of us ascribe to the same ideology of GNH and serving the Tsa-Wa-Sum and our foundations are not divisive by nature and we should not become divisive.”
He said his hope and prayer is that we use these opportunities are not divisive.
“That is not to say we should not point things out when it is wrong. When things can be better we should show the way.”
He said the opposition and government should never be in cahoots in the excuse or pretext of harmony and that checks and balances are every important.
“We have strong democratic institutions like ECB, RCSC, ACC and RAA and we have to ensure that checks and balances prevail so that we enjoy the fruits of a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy.”