The Primary round of the 2013 National Assembly election saw the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) going through to the final General Election scheduled for 13th July 2013.
The DPT secured the highest votes at 93,895 votes followed by PDP at 68,545 votes. Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa came third getting 35,942 votes while Druk Chirwang Tshogpa came fourth getting 12,453 votes.
The Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said, “I am happy that the Primary round is over and we have two parties who will be going forward to the General Election round and we will be looking forward to conduct it.”
The voter turnout was lower than expected at 55 percent affected in large part by the gloomy weather. However, it was still better than the NC elections where the turnout was at around 45 percent.
The Chief Election Commissioner on the lower turnout said, “It could have gone better but we have to accept that we conducted the election during the peak monsoon period and also during the main farming time.”
The DPT won in 33 constituencies and won big primarily in the Eastern Dzongkhags like Trashigang, Mongar, Pemagatshel allowing DPT to get a huge margin on the total votes secured. The incumbent party apart from totally dominating it’s stronghold of Eastern Bhutan also did surprisingly well in Central Dzongkhags like Bumthang and Trongsa where it was believed that PDP was strong. The Party also did fairly well in the South which again was considered to be an area where PDP was strong. Even in the West where DPT performed poorly, it still managed to hold onto to Thimphu, Upper Paro and Gasa.
What paid off for DPT in addition to its minimum programs focused primarily in the backward regions in the East and South were also some strong regional candidates. This was in addition to its main star, master orator and master politician Jigmi Y. Thinley.
Reacting to the win DPT’s official number two Yeshey Zimba said, “We are very happy that the people of Bhutan have a lot of faith in us.”
He said that the reason why DPT won was because it served the people and lived up to the expectations of His Majesty the King and the people.
He said DPT’s next move would be very simple, which is to continue with its normal campaign.
PDP managed to significantly increase its numbers especially based on its good performance in Western Bhutan where it won Dzongkhags like Haa, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang and a constituency each in Paro and Gasa. It also managed to do fairly well in Samtse getting two of the seats and won a seat each in Chukha and Tsirang. However, as expected PDP failed to connect in the east partly due to the absence of stronger candidates and also the lack of a strong party organization there. DPT with its stronger party structure even got newbie candidates elected with comfortable majorities.
The PDP President Tshering Tobgay said, “We are deeply grateful to the people of Bhutan for giving us the opportunity to take part in the General elections.”
He also acknowledged that PDP’s main weakness was in the East and a lot of work had to be done there.
He said that he was grateful for to the new parties including BKP in taking part in the electoral process which had considerably contributed to strengthening democracy in Bhutan.
DNT which was expected to be the big surprise of the 2013 elections came a respectable third in the total vote tally but in the end could only win in two constituencies with one being Wamrong under Trashigang and another being Phuntsholing in Chukha.DNT which was considered to be stronger in Eastern Bhutan failed to break the DPT’s strong grip on the politically important region.
DNT’s Dr Tandin Dorji said that DNT candidates and members would soon meet in Thimphu and chart the future course. He said the party was yet to do an analysis of why it failed to make it to the General Elections round.
He said, “We are going to carry on with as a registered political party engaged in the political process of our country and we respect the wishes of the people and are thankful for their support.”
DCT came a distant fourth in all the constituencies except in one constituency in Samtse where it stood third.
According to political observers, party workers and also the ordinary voters on the street several things worked against the two new parties of DNT and DCT. The first major fact that worked against them was they were relatively new and people did not know much about them especially in rural areas.
Also unlike DPT and PDP that promised the sun and the moon, the two new parties made the classic political mistake of not attracting voters with big promises no matter how impossible. DNT in particular decided to stick to a campaign theme of ‘dangers of democracy’ that worked in favor of DPT in 2008 but failed to provide the specific promises of road, water and other promises made by DPT and PDP. DNT’s campaign style gained it respect but not enough votes among an electorate generally more worried about drinking water and roads.
The ‘Nyamchung’ style of politics practiced aggressively by DNT and DCT targeted mainly at DPT and partly also at PDP gained sympathy but failed to get votes.
The much touted youth and change factor also failed to work in favor of both parties.
Also a crude but harsh truth visible even in the NC elections was that some voters especially in the rural areas were not entirely comfortable or ready for a woman Prime Minister. Though only embarrassingly whispered by some politicians this was an underside of the 2013 Primary rounds.
DCT President Lily Wangchuk, however, took this issue head on and said that one of the other reasons why her party performed poorly was because it comprised mainly youth and women candidates who were not able to break through Bhutanese socio-cultural notions. She also complained that new parties suffered from both a lack of time and resources compared to DPT and PDP.
She also admitted that her party which wanted to be more responsible had not made big promises like some other parties.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu