On Thursday evening, during the live broadcast of the Vice President’s debate, the first segment was on the economy and when it was the turn of parties to ask question of each other the Vice Presidents of the four parties Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT), Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) effectively ganged up on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Vice President by all directing their questions at her.
This led to the PDP VP Dorji Choden to say on stage that the other parties all seem to have ganged up against PDP and she asked of this is healthy for democracy.
Apart from this during several public constituency level debates in almost an oddity, the incumbent ruling party DNT and opposition party DPT have been going easy on each other and at times even openly supporting each other.
This trend started right from the President’s debate where the DNT President Lotay Tshering came to the rescue of the DPT President Dorji Wangdi on the issue of the Punatsangchu I project saying that no government would intentionally want a project to fail.
In debates after that like in Menbi-Tsenkhar, Nanong-Shumar, Jomotsangkha-Martshala and South Thimphu the DPT candidates openly praised the DNT government for being fair or for working together with the opposition.
The DNT candidates themselves picked up these praise from DPT candidates in their debates and used it to show how fair they were in their tenure.
A senior DTT party official, on the condition of anonymity, said that firstly it is happening because the PDP has a more aggressive campaign where they are trying to blame others and so a blowback is there.
He said the other reason is that everyone is scared of PDP given its strength and are thus attacking it.
The BTP General Secretary Tshering Nidup said the position taken by DNT and DPT during the debates depends how they worked during the five years in Parliament.
He said a key factor for the friendliness is due to COVID as the whole nation including the Opposition had to unite with the government to fight the pandemic. He said they had to work together and bring the national interest to the fore front.
A senior DPT party official said that in the debates it was usually the DNT candidates asking the DPT candidates to answer on how fair DNT was and the DPT candidates were only being honest.
He said that through DNT failed in governance and achievements there was no grudge between DNT and DPT, but when it comes to PDP a grudge seems to have developed between DPT and PDP.
The party official did not feel that the other parties were ganging up on PDP due to its strength as all parties are equally strong.
DNT General Secretary Phurba said that in his view friendly relations between the two parties are not possible as both are contesting to win and only one can win.
He said the comments by the DPT candidates are based on the personal level where they are happy and also at the professional level in terms of how they worked in the Parliament.
Phurba pointed out that Parliament in the last five years did not work as Opposition and Ruling MPs but the MPs from both parties would be mixed along party lines when it came to issues.
He said there were instances when ruling MPs supported the Opposition MPs and vice versa and at times it would be all the MPs versus the government.
He said this same attitude has come into the elections.
A senior PDP party official said that BTP, DNT and DPT have been ganging up against PDP.
He said that DTT has been neutral but in the Vice President’s debate the DTT also joined in as the DTT VP and PDP VP are contesting in the same constituency and so it was in the interest of the DTT VP to put the PDP VP in a spot.
The party official said that the joint attacks are happening because PDP is seen as the strongest party and also because of electoral dynamics.
He said that DNT will always be against PDP as they share the same voter base in the West, South and parts of the East. He said DPT will be against PDP as the two parties have an old rivalry.
The PDP party official said that another factor is that BTP and DPT are both being nice to DNT as they feel that DNT will not make it to the final round and so BTP and DPT feel they can use support from DNT when they make it to the final round.
He said this is really benefiting DNT and has strengthened DNT.
“Both DPT and BTP have fallen for Dr Lotay’s skillful politics,” said the official.
The party official said that the DPT and DNT primary round strategy is to be friendly but it is very sad for citizens.
He said the country is in a bad situation and when the ruling and opposition are friendly it means they have failed collectively.
The party official said that the DNT government has very cleverly kept the opposition on its side which is a big success for DNT, but the people are the victims with the state of the economy, falling reserves etc.
He said this is a kind of political corruption.
From 2013 to 2018 the DPT would keep a tab on the pledges of the PDP government and even issued its own report card for PDP’s pledges.
However, DPT started with such an assessment in 2019 saying DNT achieved only 1 of its 25 pledges in the first 120 days while DNT said it achieved 11.
After that DPT no longer kept a tab on DNT’s pledges.