The Bhutanese talked to the five Party Presidents with two simple questions. The first was on their chances of going to the General Round of the National Assembly Elections 2023-24, of which all Presidents are confident, and the second query was on the reasons for their optimism.
The sequence below is based on when the Presidents could be contacted or were available. The length of the story is based entirely on how much they have answered on the two questions.
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT)
The DPT President, Dorji Wangdi, said, “We are very optimistic of getting through. That’s all I can tell. We should not exaggerate things also.”
Explaining the reasons, he said, “You should be strong in what the nation needs today, especially in re-laying the foundation for economic success.”
He said the focus or what they are offering to the people of Bhutan is to revive and strengthen the economy and put it on the path of economic prosperity, and the second one is ensuring unity, peace and harmony, which is the most important for everybody.
He said this is a universal aspiration of all human being and humanity.
“That’s what Bhutan needs to pursue and these are very important against backdrop of what is happening around the world, with the economic crisis and humanitarian crisis around the world.”
People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
The PDP President Tshering Tobgay said, “Right now, it looks very good and we are optimistic.”
Explaining the reasons, he said, “We have been working for many years, we have a strong party structure, we have reached out to all dzongkhags, gewogs, chiwogs, villagers and consulted party people. We have a strong party membership of around 6,000 broad based members and membership is closed for now.”
He said they have a country wide network of coordinators and supporters and candidates who are working very hard throughout with consultations, and what villagers or rural folk say to them repeatedly is that they really miss PDP because they have not received development or missed out development in the last five years.
He added, “This is across the country, and they say the economy is in a bad shape and needs to be urgently repaired. Many of them say only PDP can repair it based on past track record. All things considered, it gives us cause for optimism.”
“If we all work honestly, we are way ahead of the game, we have a proven track record, better manifesto, we have delivered in the past, we have better candidates now and we have a strategy in place to deliver, and we have worked harder and have a better organization in place,” the PDP President said.
He further said the above things including the convention, indicates, perhaps, they have a better chance.
“However, when it comes to spreading misinformation, fear and outright lies and spreading lies to try to associate the party with the rich and corrupt practices, this is something that we are dealing with now more than ever. On the one hand this just shows that all parties see us as the threat or principal challenger. On the other hand, it is a cause of grave concern because many people believe those lies and mistruths,” the PDP President said.
Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP)
The BTP President, Pema Chewang, said, “The chances are around 70 percent to 80 percent or we can say we have a good chance.”
“Basically, the candidates are all seasoned. Secondly, the uniqueness in our manifesto as we are giving priority to public service delivery. Thirdly, I served for the last 32 years. Mine is service before ambition.”
The President said despite being a new party they were able to cover 20 Dzongkhags and 192 Gewogs and 82 Chiwogs.
“We were able to make an impact in the first round, and we could make a wave.”
Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT)
The DTT President, Kinga Tshering, talking about his party’s chances to make it to the final round said, “I would say very, very high, and I think we have a very good feeling about the whole process, and especially after the debate, people are very convinced of our very clear and solid plan for our economic development.”
Going into the reasons, he said, “Number one is the manifesto. Sunomics has now caught on the imagination and people see there are 215 pledges inside based on very credible economic theories and based on our own Buddhist Capitalism.”
He said people are convinced of that, and they know the content and DTT also has a very implementable plan, and out of the box ideas, and people are also generally very excited. He said they are also reframing regional development.
DTT President said, “So, given all this, we feel that perhaps we are at a cross roads where people are going to make the right decision.”
The Party President did well in both the manifesto debate and also the Party Presidents’ debate.
“On the debate, two things I realized worked in my personal experience. Number one is content preparation for the last two years on the whole manifesto with the team, and we have been building on content,” he said and further added, “The second thing is a real sense of urgency and conviction and genuine passion that I felt for the whole thing. We owe it to Bhutanese people, and this is something that I really need to be passionate about, and the people can see the genuine authenticity that is coming through. Even as politicians, I don’t think we can lie with a straight face or with passion.”
DTT President said, “One is preparation, preparation, preparation and number two is genuine authentic and passionate.”
He further said, “I know it sounds clichéd, however, I am happy to be seen at par with other Presidents as they are exceptionally talented, and have all my respect, and all are capable and I wish them all the best. The more the merrier.”
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT)
The DNT President, Lotay Tshering, talking about the chances of his party getting through said, “One hundred percent to even form the government, if people vote with their brain.”
DNT President said, “What has always been the complaint against politicians and what is the main expectation of the public from politicians? Everybody talks of sincerity and long-term interests of the country. This is what we were on unconditionally on. The firing we were getting is because we were sincere and concerned about long term interest of the country.”
He said one thing that nobody has taken note of is that DNT could have come back in style if they played conventional politics.
“We could have done a lot of legal interventions due to COVID and given subsidies and waivers and that would have taken the country down 10 or 12 years from now,” he explained.
He said DNT will do well if people feel that political parties need to be sincere and have long-term vision and need governance.
The DNT President said that everybody is saying the economy is down, but nobody is saying how they would have managed if they were in governance.
“If there are experts, I respect experts who come with solutions and not just problems. We have enough experts in the country identifying problems,” he said.
On the election being centered around the state of the economy, he asked which election of which county will not be centered around the economy?
“We are being directly blamed for destroying the country’s economy, but these people do not tell us how we should have managed. If we got a chance, like the two governments what wonders the DNT could have done,” the DNT President stated.
He said he agrees that the economy is not like in usual times, but he said with other countries, when their economy went down, they failed with COVID but in Bhutan’s case the economy went down and it did well with COVID.
He said the four Party Presidents are speaking up now, but nobody came to tell him how he should be managing during the pandemic.
“I am so grateful to every Bhutanese, including the four other Party Presidents that they supported when we locked down the country and closed the border. Isn’t the economy, not good, as a result of that?”
He said people talk about experience, but no party apart from DNT has the experience of governing the country during the roughest patch in its history.
The DNT President further said, “Even in major things, like tourism they are all saying they will refute the tourism policy, but ask them how they will do it. What they want to do is already done. One should ask if they want to do away with the INR 1,200?”
“We took Saturday off saying teachers are more important but brought it back due to COVID,” he added.
“We talked of GSB for farm road and chain link fencing, and there was no such fencing in the past. They are saying they will do it, but we have already done it,” the DNT President said.
He said in hydropower, the only difference is that they are saying they will start Kholongchu and implement Dorjilung, but Kholongchu already had a group of investors visiting there.
He said the World Bank, EIB, ADB and OPEC have confirmed they will do consortium financing for Dorjilung, which has never happened in the history of the country.