All quiet on the PDP front

The silence of People’s Democratic Party has raised questions over the party’s political mandate and the seriousness with which it is pursuing politics post 2018 defeat

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has remained strangely quiet after it was ousted in the 2018 primary round.

Since then the former ruling party has not made even one single comment, let alone criticisms against the current government’s policies. The silence was particularly loud when PDP did not make any official statement on the government’s 120-day pledges.

This has raised both questions and doubts over the party’s political mandate and the seriousness with which it is pursuing politics post 2018 defeat.

PDP secured 27.44% of votes in the primary round of 2018 elections, falling short of a few thousands votes to get through to the general election.  

A senior freelance journalist and political commentator wondered why PDP that has so much experience in governance is silent on a number of policy issues. “PDP should be actively taking part in politics from outside of the parliament,” he said.

General Secretary of PDP Jigme Zangpo explained that the party’s intention of remaining silent for now is primarily to bring in harmony and unity.

However, he said, the party is strictly watching the movements and decisions of the government like meet the press, National Assembly resolutions and also the 120 days pledges.

“We need to give time and then make a move. It is too premature to make any sort of comments. We have to see if the government has done any serious ground work or not on its decisions and based on our findings we want to make comments,” said Jigme Zangpo.

The former Speaker said the PDP has the experience of both being in the opposition and the government and it will not remain quiet. “On the right time the party will issue press releases and make comments. We can’t push political agenda and make comments just for the sake of commenting,” said the General Secretary. “The party will not make criticisms on petty issues but be objective and raise voice when the government goes wrong.”

He added that the new government needs time to settle down and the PDP will comment on the government’s performance based on its own findings and not rely on external information or rumors.

Citing an example, the General Secretary said PDP is studying the government’s education pledges and whether enough research was done before implementing those pledges. “The party is closely following the cut-off-point of class X along with the budget provisions.”

PDP’s silence has come under public scrutiny, with certain quarters even alluding the party’s political behavior as open support for the ruling party. Critical opposition voices have alleged PDP’s silence as a validation of the possible collusion between PDP and ruling Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) during the general election.

A senior journalist and author, Gopilal Acharya, said the reason why former Prime Minister and his party is not making any noise might be because he, as the prime minister, had alluded that DNT, despite their absence in Parliament, lost no opportunity in issuing press releases to suit its political interest by crying foul at the government’s certain decisions.

“The third parties can also play a more traditional role of protest vehicle as practiced in the American system. In fact, the importance of third parties becomes pronounced when people believe that the major two parties (the ruling and the opposition) have neglected issues of importance or have become unresponsive to their needs,” said Gopilal Acharya.

When PDP was in the opposition with just two representatives in Parliament, the Opposition Leader left no stone unturned, making use of personal blogs and social media, to criticize and mobilize support against unpopular government decisions.

“The silence of PDP President this time around has been deafening,” said an observer. “Political discourse and debate must continue. And PDP must take part in the political process because over 27% of Bhutanese voters supported the party in the primary round.”

Chencho Dema from Thimphu