DNT offer still stands while DCT says strong third party would offer alternative

Both DNT and DCT also said that contrary to the BKP President’s denials the idea of three parties uniting was discussed with BKP

Brushing aside any controversy and speculation the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) came out once again to say that its offer of uniting the three new parties into one still stands. Meanwhile the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) President Lily Wangchuk said that personally she was open to all options.

In response to questions sent by the reporter the DNT party said, “DNT has publicly floated an open proposal for the three new registered political parties to put people before parties and unite to stand a better chance against two established parties, PDP and DPT, to give our people a better political platform.”

DNT said this was not to say that the two established parties are bad but that Bhutan deserves better. DNT also said that Bhutan must prevent ‘establishment politics’ where only two political parties dominate over people.

“DNT believes that people’s power is more important than party’s power,” said DNT.

The party gave various international examples of two party dominated systems and how people across the world are fighting against such two party dominated systems.

“In Bhutan, we do not want to risk people’s choice reduced to either PDP or DPT; we want the democratic power to be with Bhutanese people. Hence, it’s not about new parties over established parties but about people over “establishment politics,” said DNT.

DCT President Lily Wangchuk said that the merger of the three political parties into a single political entity would certainly make the party stronger.

She said, “Having a third party, which is equally strong, if not more, would offer an alternative in terms of political leadership and ideology. Besides, having only two political parties dominating the political scene in the country could be unhealthy for Bhutanese democracy.”

She said that her final stand would depend on the common stand taken by her party members at the General Convention.

“We hope to weigh all the pros and cons and we will take a joint decision that will be in the best interest of our country and democracy.  Personally, I am open to all options,” she said.

Meanwhile there is disappointment and even bewilderment in DNT and DCT over the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s (BKP) President Sonam K Tobgay’s public stand that BKP was not aware of any such proposal nor was it discussed at any forum between the three parties.

The DNT said, “DNT respects BKP but the discussion did happen. Politics is a duty to serve the people where power lies in the people. We should tell people the truth, all the time.”

DNT said the discussion with both BKP and DCT happened in 2014 in Denmark. The BKP Party President had represented BKP in the same forum.

The DCT President also said, “The idea was proposed by DNT in Denmark to both DCT and BKP.”

In the last article by this paper on DNT’s open offer to BKP and DCT the BKP President had been quoted saying he was not aware of such a proposal and that BKP stood by itself.

Though the article liberally quoted him the BKP President restated his quote on his Facebook page making it seem like a reaction to the DNT offer article. As a result some, without reading the article, assumed the DNT open offer story to be inaccurate and they stated so in the comments section of the BKP President’s post on his wall. The BKP President on his part made no attempt to correct this misperception created by the post.

There is a feeling in DNT and DCT now that the BKP President’s reaction is an attempt to take a moral high ground at the cost of the potential unity of the three parties and also political ground realities facing the new parties.

Lily Wangchuk said that as a new political party, the last election was very challenging, competing against well-established political parties like PDP and DPT who had several advantages over the new parties.

She said being six years ahead of the new parties, they had well established party machinery across the country with wide membership and familiarity including winning over many former local leaders and influential individuals in villages since 2007 who continued to play an important role as party workers in the last elections.

“They also had the financial advantage as most potential financial supporters from well established business organizations were their registered members making it difficult for new parties to mobilize funds,” she added.

She said that a lot of effort went into the registration process fulfilling all the requirements to be eligible to contest in the elections with only a few weeks to campaign.

“In most places, most voters were not even aware about the new parties and our ideologies. Given the short campaign period, I had to cover two Dzongkhags in a day while driving to the destinations mostly at night. It was mentally and physically draining,” she said.

The DCT President further pointed out that even in between elections both PDP and DPT have a huge advantage over the three parties outside the Parliament as they are well placed to represent, promote, deliver and stay connected with the population.

“From the last experience, we have come to realize that both PDP and DPT have strong and loyal supporters and they will continue to support these two old parties. The remaining voters will get divided amongst all new political parties after the majority is gone to two older parties,” she said.

She said that the above factors will continue to pose challenges for not only DCT, DNT and BKP but any new party that will come into existence closer to 2018 elections.

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