The 2013 election race is being criticized for many reasons, and chief among them are the mudslinging matches between various candidates, which at times have even gotten personal.
However, another rapidly emerging problem is that candidates from both People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) have a diverging set of facts on the same issues.
As the level of desperation increases, some of the candidates that include the prominent politicians have been coming out of fantastic claims and facts, either fed to them or creatively created on the spot.
Therefore, on issues as diverse as Rupee Crisis, diplomatic ties, corruption, employment, poverty, etc., the politicians are stating their own set of figures and justifications.
If a team of fact checkers were hired to check such ‘facts’ stated by the politicians, then a voluminous report might just be generated.
An observation to be gathered here is that we are largely an oral society, and do not have a well established reading culture. It is interesting to note that all the political candidates are graduates, but many of them are lacking in their homework.
PDP as the former Opposition party, and the one hoping to replace the incumbent has done enough homework on issues that would put the incumbent government on the mat. This is visible in the constant repetition of some critical issues, but without going into adequate details.
By this point of the race, the candidates should have all the shortcoming of the incumbent government, not only at the national level but also at the local level. The failure to convey local issues adequately may alienate voters who cast their votes on local lines. The PDP, however, has managed to grasp and communicate issues of major concern like the economy, corruption, diplomatic ties with India, etc.
The DPT candidates who have not done enough homework are taking an ostrich like approach, of denying that problems exist at all, or coming out with fantastic conspiracy theories. DPT, it seems, has decided that being angrier and more outraged will be an effective communication tool.
If DPT candidates went through their own government reports and documents, instead of slipping into a denial mode, then they would be able to mount a more capable and factual defense against PDP. Denial of problems that exist will only frustrate voters, and serve as a counterproductive measure. However, in terms of organizing a manifesto, DPT has done a comparatively more detailed job than PDP.
The above, is not a sweeping statement for all, as candidates from both parties have demonstrated depth, maturity, and clear indications that they have done their fair share of reading and understanding.
Apart from a genuine lack of knowledge, most politicians are intentionally not sticking to the facts, and some have resorted to spreading blatant lies on national TV and showing such little respect for the electorate. The actual observation, so far goes that this is a problem that particularly afflicts the incumbent party.
Claims that the Rupee Crisis is not a big problem, corruption has dropped down, Bhutan’s relations with India are at an all time high, or even the recent public statement by a former minister saying that an article by a major foreign newspaper was incited by political rivals in Bhutan- does nothing to improve the credibility of DPT.
In addition, the defamatory and untrue claims of media houses and online social media sites being associated with PDP – charges made by the DPT President has invited legal defamation charges from the former Opposition party.
The repeated denials by DPT on national forums that former ministers do not own land near the Education City only to be found later that ministers or their spouses did own land nearby, have raised strong questions on the credibility of its leaders. This is an example of how the DPT has damaged itself by adopting a campaign strategy of denying the obvious and viciously attacking individuals and institutions irrespective of the facts.
Up until the primary round of elections, PDP was known more for being the former Opposition party sticking to making safe promises, with the DCT and DNT more on the attack. If DPT, after the primary rounds, had stuck to a positive campaign strategy then the party would have reaped rich dividends in two ways.
The first benefit would be that it could have come across as a mature and positive party offering the nation a clear vision. The second obvious benefit is that it would have avoided a negative campaign where it stood to lose more as it was in the government for five years.
However, for some inexplicable reasons, DPT first went on the attack by going after PDP’s pledges. This backfired in two major ways. One way was that DPT did not have time to explain its own pledges and it came across as a negative party too. The other much bigger problem was that when PDP finally did go on the attack, it found no shortage of issues from corruption to the economy to thrash out in public.
DPT’s response here could have either been to defend itself based on facts or to adopt a positive campaign. However, DPT chose a self defeating move as it went on an ultra-aggressive campaign of defaming the media and the opposition party without any facts.
At the start of the primary round of elections, DPT might have had a slight edge by getting more votes despite DNT’s seven senior candidates joining PDP. However, its negative and at times toxic campaigning strategy has now given the PDP an unintended advantage.
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower