The journey towards the 2023 National Assembly (NA) elections has gained momentum, marked by numerous debates and forums held nationwide. It commenced with the introduction of the manifestos of the five political parties, followed by debates among the presidential candidates.
A significant and worrying revelation arising from these discussions is the erosion of trust in both political parties and democracy concurrently. Many candidates have spoken about this and emphasized the imperative to restore faith. We do not want to delve into the historical aspects, by assuming the roles of political archaeologists. However, it is widely acknowledged that one contributing factor is the parties’ failure to fulfill their commitments. This stems from the party’s ambition to secure victory, leading them to incorporate impractical promises into their agendas, despite the constraints imposed by government regulations and existing Acts.
The repercussions of dwindling trust in political parties extend beyond the immediate issue. Citizens become disenchanted, diminishing their enthusiasm to vote. Even if they do cast their ballots, it is often viewed as a perfunctory duty. Consequently, many literate individuals forego reading the party pledges, resulting in reduced voter turnout, particularly in rural areas where the prevailing sentiment is that the outcome does not significantly impact the people.
While acknowledging the efforts of political parties, skepticism regarding their pledges is becoming more pronounced. Some promises seem tailored solely for garnering votes, lacking substantive meaning. All parties claim their manifestos are crafted through extensive consultations with the public. However, skepticism persists, with a belief that intelligent citizens would not endorse certain commitments.
The loss of faith in political parties is a grave concern, transcending into a broader loss of faith in the democratic system—a gift from our Kings. However, it is not too late for rectification. Currently, 235 politicians are engaging with the populace across the country. It is their duty to elucidate the significance of voting for a robust democracy. If past political entities faltered, it is their responsibility to explain the impediments hindering the fulfillment of their pledges. The electorate is likely to comprehend and appreciate transparency.
Furthermore, as the electoral fervor intensifies, reports of communities fracturing along political lines have surfaced. Here, political parties and candidates shoulder the responsibility of clarifying their positions, emphasizing that above all, citizens are Bhutanese, irrespective of party affiliations. It is crucial for voters to realize that candidates may come and go, but they must coexist harmoniously without succumbing to divisive sentiments.
While debates and persuasion to secure votes are pivotal, politicians should also recognize that certain issues transcend political boundaries. The erosion of faith in political parties and the emergence of divisive forces demand attention and concerted efforts beyond mere political discourse.