Political parties ready with manifestos

Clash of the Titans

Candidates from five political parties are spread across Bhutan’s 47 constituencies. All candidates are qualified and have gone through the screening process of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). Nonetheless, there are political candidates who are considered better than others by observers and analysts. Similarly, there are some constituencies, which analysts say have good candidates pitched against each other. These are constituencies attracting the eyes of the voters – to witness them clash. One such constituency is Bartsham-Shongphu, Trashigang.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has pitched former National Council (NC) Chairperson Dasho Sonam Kinga (PhD), from the constituency. He joined the party on 17th February 2023. He is also the Vice President of the Party.  Prior to joining DNT, Dasho Sonam Kinga was a core member of the Gyalsung project.

The DNT candidate has completed his Ph.D. and MA in Area Studies from Kyoto University, Japan, after earning a Bachelors in Arts in English Honours from Sherubtse College, Bhutan. He has an I.B. (Diploma) from Lester B. Pearson College in Canada.

In 1998, Sonam Kinga began his career as a Publication Officer at the Curriculum Division of the Ministry of Education. He then went on to work as a Research Officer with the Centre for Bhutan Studies. He was a Senior Program Officer with Save the Children US in Thimphu. He also served as Executive Editor for a private newspaper, Bhutan Observer.

Following his successful election to the NC in the historic parliamentary elections of 2008, Sonam Kinga served as the deputy chairperson from 2008 to 2013. During his time in the NC, he also acted as the Chairperson of the Good Governance Committee and the House Committee. Sonam Kinga ultimately held the position of Chairperson of the NC from May 2013 to May 2018.

In the NC election of 2013, he secured an overwhelming 11,219 ‘yes’ votes and just 2,620 ‘No’ votes for the second term.

A good orator who is equally well equipped in Dzongkha and English; a writer and one with knowledge over a broad area are the strengths of DNT’s representative from this constituency.

Former member of the National Assembly (NA) Dr (PhD) Passang Dorji, is Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) representative from the constituency. Dorji has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Delhi, India, and a Master’s degree in Management from the University of Canberra, Australia. He also holds a PhD in International Relations from the City University of Hong Kong.

Passang Dorji secured 4,099 votes and defeated Tenzin Lekphell, from the DNT in the 2018 NA election.

Dorji embarked on his professional journey by joining as employment office under the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources. From there, he transitioned to the role of chief reporter at Bhutan Times and later took on the position of editor at The Journalist. His passion for journalism saw him become the inaugural president of the Journalist Association of Bhutan.

In addition to his contributions to the media industry, Dorji also played a crucial role as a founding member and board director of the Bhutan Transparency Initiative. He then worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme. During this time, he actively participated in the development of the Five Year Strategic Plan (2014-2019) for both the NA and NC.

Apart from his personal skills and knowledge, the candidate is considered the backbone of DPT. Further, Dorji became a strong candidate because of DPT’s stronghold in the constituency.

The latest party to join the race, Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) has fielded the former secretary of the earlier Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Rinchen Wangdi as its candidate from Bartsham-Shongphu. Wangdi is one of the founders of the party.

He has a Bachelor of Arts from Sherubtse Kanglung, after which he studied development economics at the Australian National University and earned a Masters degree.  He started service with the Ministry of Finance as assistant finance officer, and budget officer for 15 years and another 15 years with the Department of Aid and Debt Management under the Ministry of Finance and with the GNHC secretariat as chief of development cooperation, director of GNHC and later, secretary of GNHC.

Wangdi is seen as one of the persons with an impressive network that he developed while in service and especially as GNHC Secretary. Apart from this, his ability to stay connected with his roots and social service for the community is his arsenal.  During the debate, Rinchen Wangdi said, “I did my part and represented to the full satisfaction of my constituency and other candidates are equally good and they too represented their constituency to the best of their capabilities.”

“It’s the choice of the people and all of us will be equally satisfied if any one of us gets elected because our main intention is to serve the Tsa Wa Sum,” the candidate said.

People Democratic Party’s Kinzang Wangdi, who joined politics in 2018 after resigning from his post as cabinet secretary is also highly accomplished and experienced. In his career spanning over three decades, he also held the position of Cabinet Secretary. As a civil servant, Wangdi served in many positions including Dzongda and Secretary General of the National Assembly.

Kinzang Wangdi completed his undergraduate studies at Sheruntse College and went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Agricultural Science from Lincoln University in New Zealand.

After the PDP lost in the 2018 elections, Wangdi has consistently made a point to stay in his constituency, thus reconnecting with the people. Apart from his personal achievements seen through the various posts he served, Wangdi’s strength has been his ability to link up and develop a bond with his constituents in the last three years.

A B.Tech graduate, who specialized in civil engineering, Sonam Phuntsho joined Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) as its representative from Bartsham-Shongphu constituency. Though the youngest of the five candidates, Phuntsho’s performance in the debate is said to have sparked a surprise.

Though Phuntsho did not serve in various positions like his opponents from the other parties, he is known as a person who “walks the talk.” Hard-working and dedicated, Phuntsho’s strength is also said to be his age and thus the ability to garner youth votes.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu