Very much in the game

The three political parties are not yet out of the political circle

Every five years, Bhutanese populace gets a taste of uncertainty. The evening of November 30, 2023 was no different as people watched the Horse gallop at an unprecedented speed, leaving the other four miles behind. Even before the provisional results were declared, people knew the postal ballot (PB) results. A bitter truth for some and cherries for others – the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) was beyond reach.

People shifted their interest to the first runners-up. It was initially close, but after sometime, the Elephant left the other three far behind. Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) became the party that would fight the last battle of this war against the PDP.

Questions are asked and different theories emerge. But it doesn’t change the fact that the above two parties won.

While PBs made a huge difference, the PDP performed very well at the EVM, too. They worked very hard for four years and it paid off. They did not forget that they lost because of PBs in 2018. And they had spread their wings in all parts of the country, penetrating constituencies that once did not welcome them. It was a team effort.

BTP, which was the latest to join the political bandwagon made history. While it took Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa some time to get the people’s attention, BTP did it within few months. And this required hard work, too. The Party’s President did not relax even for a day after the party was formed. He went to places no President had ever visited. He was cautious in selecting candidates. And it paid off!

It is difficult to say what would happen in the general round. If the PDP can hold on to its postal ballot supporters, BTP will have a difficult time. Further, there is a large chunk of voters, those who supported the other three parties. Both BTP and PDP will try to win their hearts.

And whoever succeeds would have the upper hand.

Unlike the primaries where two parties with the maximum number of votes go through, candidates need to win in their constituencies in the general round. While the PDP has won from almost all constituencies in the primary round, a repetition of this cannot be fathomed in the general round. The PDP is also aware that the people of Bhutan love voting for new parties. Though PDP lost in 2018, it formed the government in 2013. From this prism, PDP is not a new party.

A core question to be asked is who were supporters of the two parties? From the PB results, it appears that PDP has managed to secure the support of civil servants and others who availed the facility. Though less, BTP’s performance at the PB has been commendable.

At the EVM, PDP supporters would have been their traditional ones, with few who have jumped over to their side. On the contrary, BTP’s EVM supporters are those who have switched allegiance and moved from other parties. This indicates that BTP has the ability to rope in new members from other parties. There is still more than a month to do this.

Thus, the two parties have the same or similar work awaiting. They need to retain their current supporters and try to garner support of the other three political parties.

That is where the other three parties come in. The DNT, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT), may have lost in the primary round, but they are still very much in the game.  We cannot count them out, not until the general elections. Will the PDP be able to sway supporters of the other three parties to their fold or will it be BTP?

Traditionally, DPT and PDP have been rivals fighting since the 2008 elections. While the picture may have changed in the last few years, the results from some constituency says otherwise. The rivalry still exists. On the other hand, as a fresh entrant BTP has had no issues with DPT. There are words that some candidates from both PDP and BTP are already reaching out to the DPT.

Similarly, where will DNT and DTT sway to? While some members of the PDP are former DNT candidates, the 2018 elections saw the two fighting for the share DPT could not get. Further down, the horse trading of 2013 did not turn out to be a very good marriage.

DTT, because of its founding members are labelled as a breakaway faction of the DPT.

Social media has already begun depicting pictures of all four parties ganging up against the PDP. Everything is a probability in politics. However, the ball is not in the courts of the party office. It is in the interiors, the nooks and crannies of the country where the voters are. Will these people, who are a dejected lot listen to Thimphu or their representatives? Allegations of simple farmers bought over even with a Nu 100 voucher are rife.

The days leading to the general elections will be interesting. At this juncture, nothing can be said. It will take some days for the wounds of the three injured to heal. They will not jump the gun and take a rash decision. Neither will they leave it for their supporters to decide, notwithstanding if they listen or not. They will have to take a step, make few calls from their homes to far-flung villages.

Let us hope and pray that the calls made are not for political gains, though it is politics!

By Tandin Wangchuk, Thimphu

(The views expressed are my own and not related to any agency that I work for)