Star power and politics in Bhutan

The country so far has seen two actor-turned politicians in the National Assembly, making the new National Council elect from Punakha, Lhaki Dolma the third major movie star to enter Bhutan’s Parliament,

This validates that star factor does make a difference in amassing votes in Bhutan apart from their qualification and experiences.

Lhaki Dolma acknowledged the fact that it greatly helped her after people recognized her from her years of active presence in the silver screen. According to local residents instead of Lhaki Dolma going to the doorsteps of the voters, people were in turn gathering to see her and listen to what she has to say.

Lhaki Dolma not only has a huge fan base on social media but her equally popular contemporaries also extended their support on social media which not only helped her reach the voters inside the country but also helped in reaching the voters overseas.

Chimi who is from Punakha said, most younger voters must have voted for her as many of them like her as an actress. Chimi shared that since her father was a popular Gup it must have also helped her.

One of her opponents from Punakha, Sonam said that Lhaki’s popularity greatly favored her win.

“As an actress, most of the people know her and voted for her. Those who are working in the government services and Armed forces might have voted for her as they already know her beforehand. As for the other candidates, our manifestos did not have a wide reach like hers which hampered our postal ballot votes because those who’ve opted for postal ballot services did not attend any common forums or were not present during the campaign period. So they could have blindly cast their vote for someone they know is representing their dzongkhag. If I intend to contest next election, I would like to take postal ballot voters into consideration,” added Sonam.

Bhutan’s parliament also saw two other actor-turned politicians, Gyem Dorji who represented Nisho-Sephu Constituency, Wangdue as the Candidate of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa in the first parliamentary election. Apart from other factors his versatility as an actor; writer and a good oratory skills helped him win a seat in 2008.

The other former actor, Kezang Wangmo also entered politics at the peak of her popularity in the Bhutanese film industry and she was known for her captivating roles and versatility. She was elected as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) representative from Paro, Dogar-Shaba.

Lhaki Dolma won after securing 2,333 votes, of which 1,627 were EVM votes and 706 through postal ballot. Since she won in both the EVM and postal ballot votes it can be construed that Lhaki Dolma was not only the choice of the literate voters but the elderly voters and the villagers in Punakha.

Lhaki Dolma holds a BA degree from College of Language & Cultural Studies and a Post-Graduate degree from the Royal Institute of Management. She worked in the Ministry of Agriculture before pursuing an independent film career as a writer, director, producer and an actor.

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