The people have spoken

Visiting foreign dignitaries and even scholars have, time and again, commented on the simplicity of the Bhutanese people, and also their deep wisdom. This wisdom is not only seeks to bring balance in the natural and spiritual aspects of our lives, but also in the political aspect.

The same political wisdom was also felt in March 2008, when the people opted for DPT. In a sense, that political balance has been restored with the July 2013 results.

After the incumbent DPT government was given an opportunity for five years, the Bhutanese people have now decided to give an opportunity to the PDP to prove its merit.

The PDP should take this sacred mandate from the people and make sure that it does not repeat any of the mistakes made by the incumbent government, and also further help to strengthen democracy.

The DPT should not get disheartened at the outcome of the elections, and instead use its new position to strengthen Bhutanese democracy by playing the role of a strong Opposition party.

The people of Bhutan will, indeed, be fortunate to get a strong and capable leader like the former Prime Minister as the Opposition Leader. He will not be alone as he will be supported by 14 other capable candidates that comprise of experienced and heavyweight former ministers.

With such an experienced Opposition party, they can, indeed, play a very important role, not only in the Parliament, but also in our democracy and serve in the larger national interest. This will include pointing out the flaws of the new ruling government whenever it fails to live up to the people’s expectations.

There is no doubt that the 2013 elections has been more harsh, and in some ways, more brutal than the 2008 race. The PDP, as the ruling government, should not delve in the past, but focus on its mandates and promises. The people need the PDP and DPT to work hand in hand, and to bring the divided families, communities and friends together, so that we are one nation under one King.

There are several reasons as to why DPT lost and PDP won, however, the important issue at the moment is for the nation to collectively tackle some major issues that affect us all.

The first and immediate challenge is to clarify on the subsidy issue with the Indian government so that the economic burden on ordinary Bhutanese households can be reduced.

There is no doubt that the biggest challenge for PDP, both in the short and long term, will be economic in nature. Within the next five years, the PDP government’s foremost priority is to take Bhutan out of the Rupee and Credit crisis, and take us closer to the self-sufficiency goal.

This will require good economic management skills, gaining developmental partners, and an ability to consult, and take in the critical feedback from the citizens including the Opposition party.

Important issues like drinking water supply, quality of farm roads, agricultural development, and human wildlife conflict in rural areas should also assume immediate priority.

Another important and critical task will be in further strengthening Bhutan’s ongoing democratic transition. This includes strengthening and supporting Constitutional Bodies and also being more tolerant of a free and critical press or media. The Right to Information Act should be made a priority with proper and in-depth consultation. Citizens, that include even civil servants, should be encouraged to give critical feedback so that our entire system improves.

It will be important to ensure the PDP win is not just for the majority that voted for the party, but also a win for the nation and citizens as a whole.

The 2013 elections cannot be just another routine election in Bhutan, but it must translate into some fundamental changes in the way that the government runs the system. The new government must place the needs and priority of the ordinary citizens at the top, and function accordingly or risk alienating the voters by 2018.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Alan Moore

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