In a turnaround the two Party Presidents of DNT and DPT informed the ECB on 2nd June that they will now not be going for campaigning for the bye-elections in Nanglam and Mongar given the COVID-19 situation.
In an earlier meeting with the ECB, the DNT had said that their Party President is going and the DPT had said their President will also go if the DNT President goes. It had been agreed that the Presidents would avoid door to door campaigning and would instead address small gatherings with COVID protocol in the two constituencies.
Then subsequently with a record 100 cases in one day a few days ago the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering had modified his stance to say that he would only go once the COVID-19 situation improves.
The ECB on 2nd June informed the parties that it has no legal power to stop the Presidents from campaigning, but given the COVID-19 situation the ECB advised against it. The ECB said if they did not go ECB would make alternative arrangements to campaign virtually through BBS, online campaigning and the media.
As a result, both the parties agreed their Presidents are not going.
Lyonchhen said that his party General Secretary had called him conveying the ECB advice and request and so he said that he would go by the ECB advice.
This then also ensured that the DPT President would not be going once the PM said he is not going.
DNT General Secretary Phurba said that the ECB had said that while it does not have the authority to stop the Presidents from going it is concerned about the COVID situation and would advise against it and would instead make arrangements through other online and media platforms.
Lyonchhen giving the background said it is true that the OL proposed to him via a text message for both of them not to go but he had told the OL he can only take a call after consulting his two candidates and party members and they wanted him to go.
A major reason for the PM initially wanting to go is the race in Nanglam where one of its founder and senior DNT leader Karma Dorji is fighting an important race.
Lyonchhen said that if he could correct the voting pattern in Nanglam and Pemagatshel it would be a favour not only to the nation but also to democracy. He said traditionally in Nanglam DPT has been winning with huge landslide margins but elections should be about voting to form the government and also get a strong candidate which he said is fulfilled in Karma Dorji as the better and more experienced candidate.
Lyonchhen said that Karma has performed from school days with good academic record, won scholarships, held positions, worked in academics and helped found the party.
Lyonchhen said that if Karma as a strong candidate does not win in Nanglam then in 2023 parties would all field very weak candidates in Nanglam knowing the result in advance.
The PM said that it is not healthy for one constituency to vote for the same party election after election.
He said the situation in Mongar is little better as Karma Lhamo is an experienced candidate and the constituency has always gone with the ruling party.
The Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that he had always maintained that they should not campaign and now that the PM is not going he would also not be going.
He said that the meeting of the two party secretaries had happened as the ECB asked the DNT to remove the PM’s online video message clip to voters in the two two constituencies as it had not got ECB approval.
On the PM’s appel to the voters of Nanglam the OL said that the PM is questioning the intelligence of the people and this is one of the last things one should do in a democracy. He said the people of Nanglam live near the border and are well educated and better exposed to politics than most Bhutanese.
The OL said by the same logic DPT could question why some constituencies had never voted for it, but it would not do so and respects the voters and their choices.