Time to make the final call

After more than two months of hectic campaigning, promises, debates, politicking and even some mudslinging by some of the political party candidates, finally, it comes down to the voters to make the call on July 13, 2013 with the press of an electronic button. The race at this time and moment is too close to call and both parties have equal chances of winning or losing.

There are those who think DPT will win, given its performance in the primary round, its fulfillment of common minimum program like farm roads, drinking water, electrification, and mobile connection in rural areas, and an experienced leadership exemplified in the DPT president Jigmi Y Thinley.

DPT supporters and candidates say that they can hold onto most of the 33 seats they won in the primary rounds and that even the numerically superior eastern Dzongkhags is a done deal.

There are equally those who think PDP will win given the state of the economy, corruption cases, state of relations with India, democratic issues, entry of seven DNT leaders and reasonably strong candidates.

PDP supporters says that most DNT and DCT voters will be voting their way, which will bring many more seats their way, possibly enough to form the government. They also claim to have made strong inroads into DPT’s stronghold in the east, and they also claim to have further consolidated their gains in the south.

The results on the evening of the July 13 will give us the final answer on the various claims and counter claims of a probable victory.

Up to late 2011, the general consensus was that DPT would be a favorite for the 2013 polls. A private newspaper went to the extent of declaring PDP as a near extinct political party. It was assumed then that the 2013 elections would be to see who would replace PDP as the Opposition party with the real electoral battle to be fought only in 2018.

This logic and punditry, which seemed plausible at the time, received its first big jolt in series of jolts with the start of the Rupee Crisis from late 2011 followed soon by the Credit Crisis in 2012 when banks stopped giving loans on cars and buildings. Soon as various import restrictions were put in place, the people realized that the Bhutanese economy was in trouble.

The economy was soon identified as the major issue. New parties like the DNT and DCT from the very start went after the DPT, more because it was the incumbent government. During the primary round of polling, two predictions became quite popular. One was that PDP would be replaced by DNT, and the other was that PDP and DNT would be in the final round.

The primary round results showed that both DPT and PDP were stronger than what people gave them credit for.

After the primary results, DPT once again emerged as a favorite, but then again a combination of factors again worked in making it a more equal race.

The first bombshell was the DNT president and vice president along with five other senior DNT MPs joining PDP to strengthen its eastern base, and also potentially close the gap in 14 to 15 constituencies where DNT voters can decide a winner. The second major game changer was when DPT unwittingly attacked PDP’s pledges which acted as a catalyst for PDP to go all out on a critical campaign highlighting DPT’s various incumbent failures. The third big bombshell was the withdrawal of the subsidies on LPG and Kerosene with talk of further withdrawal of subsidies on Chukha power tariff, which PDP promptly linked to DPT’s failure of relations with India.

Whatever the results, but on the voting day one thing that political pundits can predict with a fair degree of certainty is that Bhutan will get a strong and vocal Opposition. This will be combined with a new crop of National Council MPs who seem keen to fully exercise the prerogatives of the House of Review.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”

Larry J. Sabato

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