East is West and West is East

 

The 2008 General Elections, though a monumental step taken in Bhutan’s transition to democracy, also showed an ugly side as many close knit families and communities were divided on party lines.

Over the last five years, the forgiving nature of most Bhutanese, and most importantly- the unifying institution of the Monarchy brought the Bhutanese society back together as one nation under one King.

However, after the 2013 primary round of election results were announced- an entirely different threat of regionalism is emerging. Such concerns are currently restricted to a few social media discussions and in some closed door meetings, but if this trend is not explained and checked at an early stage- it could pose bigger problems for the nation.

The basic premise on some of the misleading discussions is of the wins by the parties, like DPT which won with a huge margin in the east, and is falsely being portrayed as an eastern Bhutan party supported by central Bhutan. And PDP is also misleadingly being portrayed as a western Bhutan party supported by the south.

The flawed conclusion is drawn from a cursory look at the electoral map of Bhutan, and the assumption that voters voted on regional lines.

Nothing could be further from the truth as there are several reasons as to why the results have come out the way it did. It has more to do with the socio-economic and political factors than any theorized case of regional loyalties.

The first simple truth is that all parties have campaigned on ideologies and campaign promises that had no hint of regionalism in them. In fact, many parties were criticized for sounding too familiar to one another. This fact can be further borne out by comparing the manifestos of all four political parties.  All parties also had a mix of candidates from all regions of Bhutan.

While it is true that some politicians used regional languages to address crowds- the intent was more to communicate campaign pledges better and at times entertain an easily distracted audience.  Even politicians who were not as linguistically gifted- had got in their translators.

A closer look at the results will show that people in the west and east have voted in a mixed manner.

DPT did well in typically western areas like Thimphu and upper Paro. In the East, despite of there being four parties, PDP has secured better results than it did in 2008. In fact, in dzongkhags like Lhuntse, Trashigang, Zhemgang, and Samdrup Jongkhar – the combined votes garnered by PDP, DNT and DCT are more than the total DPT votes.

In central Bhutan, PDP is in a position to take away a seat or two from DPT if votes from DNT and DCT go the PDP way.

Southern Bhutan is balanced between both PDP and DPT with PDP having only a slight edge if DNT and DCT votes go its way.

Coming to specific issues, there are more practical reasons why DPT won big in the east and PDP did well in the west.

Even before the 2008 results were declared – a gigantic Nu 147 bn draft 10th Five Year Plan (FYP) had already been drawn up with a lot of focus in backward rural areas.

The main achievement of the incumbent DPT government is that after coming to power, it modified the 10th FYP in places by adding focus, and tightened deadlines and targets, and then went all out in implementing it.

The minimum programs like farm roads, electricity, water, and mobile connection had a much bigger impact in the comparatively backward dzongkhags in the east.

The DPT leadership and its political machinery could effectively take the credit for the all development works, and even promised more if it comes back to power. This is evident in many rural eastern voters saying that they voted for DPT because they were told that DPT would come back and complete or take on new activities. In short, voters in the east rewarded DPT for its developmental activities.

There is no doubt that issues like economic problems, corruption, governance, etc. would have played a role in the elections in the east-  otherwise DPT’s margin of victory could have been even bigger. It is just that development works overshadowed the other issues to sail them through the primary round of elections.

A similar phenomenon seems to have had an effect in the central districts, especially with a strong DPT candidate in the form of the former agriculture minister from Bumthang.

Western Bhutan, which is comparatively better developed than the rest of Bhutan, did not feel a big impact of the 10th FYP. It felt more acutely on the issue of unfulfilled promises.  Being more closely linked to major urban areas, the voters in the capital were also more aware on issues like Rupee crisis, credit crunch, corruption, authoritarian style of governance, etc.

Traditionally, the west has always been more politically aware and balanced- as visible even in 2008 where it gave Bhutan the Opposition Leader, and also a comparatively lower margins of victory for DPT compared to the rest of the nation. During the NC elections, even a popular candidate like Kaka Tshering from Paro could just about scrape though. Even DPT’s Thimphu seats are not completely safe- given that the combined PDP and DNT votes are much more than the DPT votes despite having the prominent DPT candidates.

Western Bhutan, in keeping with its own socio-economic nature, higher level of exposure and more balanced political traditions decided that the time for change has come. Here too, votes were cast entirely on the socio-economic and political factors.

A national politician worth its salt knows that voters in southern Bhutan are among one of the most politically aware voters in Bhutan. It also does not help that during the midterm review – a major southern dzongkhag like Samtse performed the worst, in terms of implementation of developmental works. Southern dzongkhags being located close to the border would have also felt acutely the Rupee crisis. The south due to its geographic location and more active political culture seem to be more aware of issues like economic problems, corruption, etc. What will also hurt DPT is that despite promises and raised hopes, it has failed to resolve the sensitive census issue in the south.

Apart from western Bhutan, PDP has made major inroads into the south, and if a portion of DNT and DCT votes go to PDP, then PDP could effectively sweep the entire south in the general round of elections. It is important to note that two regionally distinct voters embodied in the western and southern voters have voted in a similar manner- not on regional lines but based on issues that affect them.

It is interesting to note that in areas where PDP had stronger candidates like in the west and south -it either did well or stood a respectable second. Also PDP had relatively weaker candidates in the east.

DPT, by comparison, not only had stronger candidates, but also a far better organized and stronger party structure in the east.

In an ultimate analysis, voters across Bhutan -irrespective of their regional make up voted based on issues that they felt were most important to them. There is no evidence to suggest that people have voted based on any kind of regional loyalties.

However, the misunderstood talk of regionalism brought about in the heat of the political race is one of the many reasons why the institution of Monarchy is all the more important to us today. Despite different political loyalties, we are, first and foremost, Bhutanese citizens united under the leadership of His Majesty the King. Also, more than politicians and political parties, we owe our national allegiance to the Tsa-Wa-Sum of King, Country, and People. It is also important to remember that elections will come and go, politicians and political parties of all types will rise and fall, but the Kingdom of Bhutan will remain forever.

 

 

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.” 
T.H. White

 

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17 comments

  1. After lots of ban and embargoes imposed by Druk Prado Party (DPT) government on people, some voters voted for the Prado Party.  I wonder if the Prado Party provided promises with the George Orwell’s piggish intoxication to voters. The characters in the animal farm that believed in the promises of the pigs will realise they were fed with sugar-coated bitter non-eadibles. But then! too late.
    But sure, the sun will set, and the season for Druk Prado Party will be over forever.

    • Correction, not some, but the majority of the people voted for Druk Prado Party as Dorji puts it. And the promises made by the OL was so outrageous, that’s why only the materialistic people in the west voted for him, as for the eastern Bhutanese, they knew he was bullshitting.

  2. On this, i totally agree with you but if you happen to meet PDP supporters like AP DRUKPA KINLEY, tell him that. He is making lots of unusual accusations and leg-pulling to people of east because they voted for DPT in majority. Words by him in every possible social media will divide the nation….

  3. After the start of Democracy,JYT and his party divided the country into two parts.it is not fault of people of bhutan but solely coz of JYT and his team.is really really sad to know…………………………………………………………………

    • Now how did JYT divide the country in to two parts.

      • You dont have ear to listen what JYT speaks in the east,Telling People of east as “Aii Ka”and coding “Ro Ka” aii ka means dpt and Ro Ka means Other party.but when he is in south and west he use to code over all by saying Na Cha Ra.Thats why People of West and South Supported equally to DPT And PDP.

  4. All PDP supporters please read this article. 

  5. I feel eastern part of Bhutan is getting proper attention with democracy and people of east are actually learning to pick party that helps them….

    It is quite known that many development that were to take place in east in past was being rather being diverted by government.

    But now people will choose government n development that should happen is taking place as well….So DPT did that…

  6. My dear d.
    what kind of development is been diverted to some other places from east before 2008. i suppose you are referring to the per-democracy Bhutan…….for your kind information for which every anti-Bhutanese group you are representing? People of Bhutan wished to be subject to the dynamic rule of Monarch…….and it was our benevolent His mystery the King who gifted power to its people…
    oops sorry did i post it as well?

    • lets say, hydro power was divided n east was given just one. Lets say, hadn’t it for health minister jigme singye, mongar will never have regional hospitals, lets even artifacts and chain of thangthong gyepo was dumped in west to attract tourists, lets say historians are funded to write more on history of west, lets say, blacktopping of western roads are important than building road in east, let say factories and industries were established in Chukha not in Sumdrup Jongkhar……Actually east for some reasons failed to grasp attention of policy makers, cso and private investors for some reason. Sacred place is east is as not as important as in west because there was no story to sell……if neglect of east is continue, there will be two Bhutan; a poor east and rich west…

  7. Defox, if you care about your east so much, why have you left east and come to west? What about the many lyonpos from east? After retirement, did they go back and settle in east? Waht about the countless civil servants from east who have never been to their root villages and instead eyeing for a parop or haap or shaa to marry and then forget his/her roots? The point is….it is the sharchops yourselves who ignore your homeland and then yet ever ready to blame the zhung for not developing east. 

  8. For sure, Bhutan has been ruled by the bureaucratic heads of the west, they deliberate did not carry out developmental activities in the east. However, with democracy, we hope eastern dzonkhags will be taken care. We hope to see many developmental programs.

  9. All of you are as dumb as donkey. The reasons why east falls behind in development is simply because there is no flat land to build any decent infrastructure. You simply cant erect buildings on slopes above 45 degree angle. If you do so the next moment you will find yourselves at the bottom of cliffs.

    cheers

    • who said ? Have you been to east? On what perspecctives are you talking? Do you really know East? Is development based on flat land? Hahaha ! common!

  10. The rivers in the east also fall downstream like in the west. 

  11. Eastern people are not aware of JYT’s home town in toeb Mendaygang under Punakha wher he shifted his census to woo the vote from east…..so people dont worry DPT is still the party of western bhutan.

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