In the political landscape of Bhutan, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has emerged as a formidable force, securing significant victories in the constituencies of Gelephu and Haa during the primary round. As the general round approaches, questions remain about whether the PDP can maintain its dominance in Sarpang and replicate the success in Haa even in the general elections.
The Gup of Gelephu, Prem Prasad Katel, shed light on the major issues faced by the people in the region, including human-wildlife conflict, seasonal flash floods, and the lack of clean drinking water supply. PDP’s manifesto addresses these concerns, promising to prioritize water availability to every home and farmland through the Department of Water (DoW). The party aims to ensure safe and sustained drinking water 24/7, aligning with the pressing needs articulated by the Gup.
Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), a contender in the election, also pledges to address these issues. Their manifesto includes commitments to construct climate-resilient water and sanitation systems, mitigating human-wildlife conflict with strategic measures.
Lok Nath, a 67-year-old from Gelephu constituency, believes that the success of the PDP is due to the Party President’s valuable experience and exposure. He emphasized that the party’s manifesto focuses on grassroots issues, such as providing clean drinking water, which directly stems from the President’s involvement.
“Over the last five years, the Party President has extensively traveled across the country, meeting people, understanding their problems, and gaining their trust, especially after the defeat in 2018,” he said.
He highlighted that the president’s capability lies in connecting with the masses in their preferred language, fostering a strong bond with the people. While acknowledging the BTP’s commendable performance as a new entrant, he credited the PDP president for his effective leadership and connection with the public.
Rabi Lal Acharja, a 65-year-old resident of Shompangkha constituency, expressed that the local community resonates with the President of the PDP. He highlighted that the people are inclined towards PDP due to its impressive track record, strong party candidate, and perceived benefits to the entire country. He emphasized the trust instilled in the party, particularly because the President actively engaged with the community in previous years, directly inquiring about their concerns and incorporating them into the party’s manifesto. This direct interaction and discussion with the people have earned PDP trust across various age groups. He mentioned that elderly citizens raised concerns about social protection policies, and the party, under the president’s leadership, assured them of finding solutions.
Khagendra Acharja, a 32-year-old from Shompangkha constituency, highlighted the complexities of the political landscape, emphasizing that evaluating a government’s performance is subjective. He shared that opting for a new political party in Bhutan for development initiatives presents challenges, including potential inexperience in governance, uncertainties about policy effectiveness, and the time required to establish credibility and trust among the public and international partners. He acknowledged the PDP’s positive initiatives during their tenure.
He said, “The PDP government focused on economic diversification, seeking to diminish dependence on hydropower as the primary revenue source.” Their efforts extended to bolstering sectors such as agriculture, tourism, small-scale industries, and the private sector. He noted that the majority of the population voted based on the outcomes achieved during the 2013-2018 term, indicating a significant influence of past actions in shaping current political preferences.
Madhav Suberi, a 25-year-old from Gelephu, expressed his perspective, noting that the majority of individuals credit PDP for their comprehensive manifestos that address the diverse needs of the Bhutanese population. The party is recognized for having experienced candidates with a proven track record of capabilities demonstrated in public service. Given Bhutan’s history of frequent changes in government, he believes there is a growing inclination among the electorate to provide an opportunity to a party with established experience and a track record of positive outcomes. He remains optimistic that people might be in favor of PDP in the upcoming general round.
Residents from Haa expressed their opinions, with Sonam Dorji stating, “The trust of the people in PDP has been earned through initiatives like providing Bolero vehicles to every gewog, offering helicopters for emergencies, and fulfilling pledges during their tenure.” He also emphasized the potential for the four candidates from Sombaykha to become Members of Parliament, highlighting the appeal of PDP’s candidate who is also the Party President. People are inclined to vote for the Party President with the anticipation that, if elected, they could become the country’s Prime Minister.
He attributed the belief that a prime ministerial role could better serve and bring about the necessary development. He noted that the populace leans towards PDP due to their past government service experience, fostering hope that the party can bring about positive changes compared to newer political alternatives.
Yeshi Wangmo, 28, attributed PDP’s popularity to the President’s rhetoric and past work experiences. While acknowledging BTP’s success in making it to the general round, the comprehensive manifesto of PDP, catering to diverse needs, seems to resonate more with the voters there.
Dorji Wangmo, a 32-year-old resident of Bji_Kar-Tshog_Uesu constituency, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing her perspective on PDP. Wangmo referred to the party’s past track records, citing notable improvements in infrastructure, particularly the roads in Samtse and Haa. She highlighted that these enhancements align with the party’s pledges and contribute to overall developmental activities in the region.
Bhutan’s political landscape is dynamic, with each party presenting a unique vision for the country’s future. As voters prepare to cast their ballots, the choice between experience and change, continuity and innovation, will shape Bhutan’s political course in the years to come.