Bhutan’s first ever primary rounds have thrown up several numbers and results subject to several interpretations. It has both confirmed and broken some conventional wisdom on the 2013 elections.
One notion that was proven right was that the three top contenders are the DPT, PDP and the DNT with the DCT being a dark horse in the contest.
However, two popular predictions have been turned on its head. One was that DPT as the incumbent party would win an unassailable majority. The other prediction was that PDP would be replaced by DNT as the opposition party.
However, the biggest notion of the 2013 elections that have been turned around is that the 2013 race is for the seat of the Opposition.
It is now very clear that the 2013 race is clearly to form the next government either by the DPT or the PDP.
While currently DPT has the upper hand due to its big win of 33 constituencies a closer look at the margins of wins in many constituencies will give PDP hope.
This is because if a significant portion of the ‘votes of change’ given to DNT and DCT are sent PDP’s way then PDP still has a good shot at forming the government. These votes could enable PDP to grab 13 more constituencies in addition to its 12 to get 25 seats which is more than the 24 required by any party to form the government.
Why this scenario is not a fantasy is because of some strong and undeniable ground realities in the 2013 Primary round.
Though starting before that, the ‘politics of change’ was visible in the first Presidential debate in Royal Thimphu College where PDP and DCT directly attacked DPT and even DNT indirectly attacked DPT.
Subsequently the campaign of the two new parties has focused primarily on highlighting the ills of the incumbent DPT government on various fronts from economy to corruption, nepotism and abuse of power.
Both new parties also carried out the ‘Nyamchung’ style of Politics to distinguish themselves from the heavyweight senior DPT leadership.
Though DNT’s style of campaigning may not have been enough to push it through the Primary round its focus on corruption, genuine democracy, autocracy, nepotism and etc was obliquely aimed at the incumbent DPT and also damaged DPT.
The DCT’s more aggressive and direct style of attack aimed at everyone but mainly against DPT to great effect in the first debate also made its intentions clear.
Voters who flocked to vote for these two new parties did so because they offered a new style and way of governance and a break from the past five years, which if truth be told, meant the incumbent DPT government.
Perhaps aware in advance of such dangers the DPT President and his colleagues in its last Meet the Press attacked the idea and concept of parties coming together after the primary round to strengthen the candidates.
Despite DPT’s moral grand standing the ECB has made it very clear that this is legal and parties can change candidates.
Candidates from the new parties themselves have argued in favor of allowing parties to get stronger candidates from other parties and have accused DPT of trying to make the situation difficult for new parties.
Now, with the primary round over and the General Elections around the corner it will be naive for the new parties to still be stuck in the primary mode and make promises for 2018 that they may well not be able to keep or sustain.
Realistically the new parties can go back to their consultancy, business or other jobs and keep a party only in name as new ones come up or take an active part in ‘the politics of change’ and make an impact in the final 2013 results.
It will also be unrealistic for the new parties to hold onto their supporters who will want to move on to the General rounds. The parties can either be left behind or move with their significant support base, guide them and have an actual impact.
Though some may argue that the new parties are giving up their ideologies the more relevant point would be that the ideologies were never that different among them in the first place. The common and undeniable thread was not only replace the party in power but also a new way and style of governance for Bhutan.
The challenge for DPT will be in not opening the champagne yet and being aware that the majority votes in Bhutan have asked for change.
For PDP the challenge will be to not only open its doors but also use consummate political skills and patience in taking the new parties and their voters together with them for what could a nail biting contest on 13th July 2013.
“The greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly, hidden in the shadows..”