Party members of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) are perplexed over the Opposition Leader’s move to resign and join as the Director General of International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), an international organization, as they had not seen it coming.
Talking to Business Bhutan, General Secretary of DPT, Sangay Phurba, said that although there were rumors about OL Pema Gyamtsho (Phd) resigning they never took the issue seriously. Also OL had not submitted an official resignation to the party. “The news was shocking for the party supporters and also for the party. We are in a quandary,” said the GS.
He said that the party is looking forward for discussion as the OL is currently busy with a project back in Bumthang.
Who would be the next party president and the OL would be decided by a set of procedures to follow. “We have potential senior candidates and the executive members will meet to discuss further but until then I can’t comment further,” the GS added.
Business Bhutan tried contacting a few DPT MPs but almost everyone did not answer the call.
One DPT MP, however, said although it is a huge loss for the party and for the country, it is a huge gain for the international community and himself. “As the OL, he has not been able to utilize his potentials and live up to his vast qualification and skills. It is a huge achievement for himself. I am proud for him,” said the MP.
“It is great news for the nation but as a former member of DPT, I just can’t think of our leader stepping down from DPT. The DPT fans will miss you and your absence in the democratic system; this will be a realization of your contribution towards strengthening our young democracy. My only prayer is that people take it positively,” said Karma Lhamo, the former MP of DPT of Monggar constituency.
OL’s resignation would also mean that a bye-election would have to be conducted to fill in the vacant position. This would have huge cost implications especially at this time when the government is already facing budget constraints.
This will be the third bye-election till now with three resignations from DPT starting from former Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley in 2013, then MP Kinga Tshering, who resigned to pursue further studies abroad in 2016 and now the OL in 2020.
The Election Commission of Bhutan told Business Bhutan that it has not yet received any documents from anyone and it would not be able to comment further.
One voter said that the existing laws need to be revisited to ensure the resignation of serving MPs does not cost the government dearly. “For that, we need to put in measures to firstly ensure that all elected MPs serve their full term and in dire circumstances where their resignation is inevitable, proper system to replace the candidate through party appointment must be explored.”
He also said that this way, continuity of political representation without having to conduct expensive bye-elections can be ensured.
According to the National Assembly Act 2008, the member’s seat will be vacant upon resignation, death, disqualification or removal and expiration of the term office. Apart from that, if a member remains absent for more than one-fourth of the number of days in a session without the permission of the House, his or her seat shall be declared to be vacant. The Act also states that if member’s seat becomes vacant, an election to fill the vacancy shall be issued within one month. The election shall be held within 90 days as from the date of vacancy.
Seeking anonymity, an employee of an NGO said that Dr. Pema Gyamtsho’s new appointment is a good thing for the country. “I feel DPT’s future is put at stake. I cannot see one other single person who can take on the leadership of party president. Funds and support to protect the environment and fight climate change are important, but what is more important is that we have a strong democracy. The Opposition Party has always been weak, and with the strongest OL leaving, the very essence of a strong democratic country is at threat.”
Another voter said that no individual should be indispensible and a political institution must thrive although there might be some impact caused by such development.
The ICIMOD on July 17 shared the news of OL’s appointment on its official Facebook page. It posted, “We are excited to announce that our Board of Governors has selected a new Director General, Dr Pema Gyamtsho who will take up the position at the retirement of our current Director General Dr David Molden in mid-October.”
On his appointment, Dr Gyamtsho had said: “ICIMOD is the key institution in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region to accelerate action to address the region’s shared concerns. I am delighted to be selected for this very important position that would give me an opportunity to pursue my passion to work for the HKH community.”
Chencho Dema from Thimphu