Observers applaud PDP’s candidate-replacement tactic


Will the group of new candidates ensure a similar feat for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the upcoming elections?

This is perhaps the question doing the rounds as the PDP replaced 12 Members of Parliament with new candidates for the 2018 elections. Two of its MPs – MP Mingbo Dukpa and Speaker Jigme Zangpo will, meanwhile, not contest because of the age factor.

The Secretary General of the party, Sonam Jatso said a majority of the serving MPs, who are stepping down, is an integral part of the PDP family.

“There have been a few isolated cases where one or two of them were not happy with the party’s decision, but most of them are with the party and they continue to support. So, the question of how it will backfire is not even there. Our party is absolutely clear why such measures had to be taken,” he added.

According to Sonam Jatso, some of their serving MPs decided to voluntarily step down and they had to look for replacement candidates to fill the vacant positions. A few serving MPs were replaced based on the recommendations made by party coordinators, members and supporters in the constituency.

“All our MPs including the prime minister and ministers are assessed based on their performance both by their respective constituents and the party. Based on this performance assessment and recommendations for replacement received from respective constituencies, the party’s executive committee had extensive deliberations before arriving at the decision to replace some of our serving MPs,” Sonam Jatso said.

Meanwhile, certain people who have been following politics closely say replacing serving MPs is good if it ensures better election result.

Wangcha Sangay, an active blogger said, “It‘s difficult for me as an outsider to determine whether it is a good move or not. But political parties do change candidates and mainly to ensure better election results. So frankly,  it would be crazy for a political party to change a bankable sitting MP. Thus replacements would be only for those whose chances of re- election are in doubt or very slim”.

He added that even then replacing sitting MPs would have some repercussions due to hurt sentiments, but such have to be dealt with by the party.

An independent freelance journalist currently pursuing her Masters in Australia, Tara Limbu, said the PDP fielding new candidates by replacing the older ones would not make as much difference to the party’s influence as its leadership would.

“In the current political belief, ideology and candidates hold the same degree of importance: irrelevance. At least that is what the last two elections have shown,” she added.

As the ultimate aim of any political party is to win confidence, get votes and be in power, a 32-year-old civil servant thinks PDP replacing MPs is to get in line with other more promising party and to remain in power for yet another five years; to further to gain trust and confidence from the people which they could not build in five years as a ruling party and also to gain votes by putting in more experienced or renowned people in the party.

Rabi C Dahal, a freelance journalist, said, “I think they have felt the anti-incumbency factor from the recent NC election and they are making wise decision.”

Meanwhile, a foreign journalist, who covers Bhutan regularly, thinks that it’s good to replace candidates that have sat for two terms and that it’s nice to have a broader range of people try out their hands in politics.

“It is good that the PDP is giving an aspiration to people who are interested to join. Once an MP always an MP is not a good idea for democracy,” the journalist added.

Describing it as probably a miscalculated move, Kunga Tenzin Dorji, a media and branding specialist, said it’s likely to have created dissatisfaction and rifts within the party.

“They could have waited till the dissolution of the government. But I am sure the PDP had its reasons and justifications for making the announcements now,” he added. However, Sonam Jatso said the replacement with new candidates is the choice of leadership the party is offering to the people of Bhutan in terms of qualification, experience, and credibility.

“As a political party committed to strengthening our democracy, it is our responsibility to field the most capable and promising candidates who will work for the interest of the constituents and the nation at large. What is more important than winning an election is that people must have a pool of credible leaders to choose from,” he added.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu