The civil servants were credited hugely for the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa victory in the 2008 elections; now with increased numbers, will they have a major say in influencing the 2013 election results?
The strength of Civil Servants as on 31st December 2011 was 23,151 comprising of 22,170 as regular Civil Servants and 981 on contract. This figure confirms that they comprise the major portion of voters.
“Civil service is not propagating one political party over other, but it is helping in promoting a stable institution,” said Member of Parliament (MP) Lhatu. He said that civil servants have not really influenced the voters at the village level.
MP Namgay Wangchuk shared that civil servants are the executive body and may be they would have some influence to some extent but at the end it is the voter themselves.
While National Council Sangay Khandu remarked, “first election experience makes us believe that voters at the village were all influenced by the civil servant but now the voters are more independent as they came into indirect contact with politics. Now the civil servant influence may decrease with villagers becoming well informed”
“We cannot force people when it comes to casting votes,” said a civil servant. “Moreover people are much more aware now and even if a civil servant tries to convince them it would not work.
Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, shared that “The ultimate answer may be yes, that civil servants might have influenced the voters but it can also be other way round, they might have consulted them, as civil service is considered to be an elite group in society.”
Jigme Samdrup a civil servant was of the view that civil servants may remain apolitical during campaign period but side by side they had influence on voters during the 2008 elections. He believed, “the civil servants are indirectly playing an important role during election time.”
“Civil servant influence on the villagers happened to the voters in the East. As far as I know people in my village are better informed and I hope they would make their decision even in the upcoming election” said Chubu Gup Tobgay.
A Gewog Administration Officer (GAO), in the east said that voting is all to do with one’s own choice and it is also difficult to say whether civil servants had any real influence over the voters.
“I’m skeptical whether the civil servants can make a difference in the 2013 elections,” said the GAO. “Maybe parents would ask their children who have turned 18 years as they will not be aware of politics” supplemented the GAO.
Sangay Dorji, a villager from Talo, said that he had voted of his free will, without any influence during the past elections although his relatives in the Capital identified people to vote for.
“I will continue to vote on my own,” said the 49 year old Talop.
One civil servant who wanted anonymity, said that maybe civil servants did influence voters in the past but now people have felt the importance of having a strong Opposition.
“The difference between 2008 and 2013 elections is that in 2008 everything was new which created a lot of curiosity and euphoria to exercise their franchise but now it has changed” said MP Prem Gurung
He also further added that with four years of experience, people will go by themselves and it will also be decided by the performance of the candidates, so civil servants will not have as much as influence as they had in the 2008 election
According to the Editor of Drukpa Magazine Mitra Raj who covered the 2008 elections, People in the villages must have consulted civil servants who are the cream of the nation and a literate section of society, “But the landslide victory of DPT Government cannot be attributed entirely to influence of civil servants, and the scenario of 2013 is expected to be different. People have become much smarter now,” he said.