Will Bumthaps maintain status quo or vote for change?

Just like Nanong-Shumar Constituency bye-election in 2013, will Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency maintain status quo by voting in favor of the opposition candidate?

As the preparations for the bye-election in Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency in Bumthang gain momentum, there is a palpable sense of excitement among voters in the Constituency and those observing political developments.

A question that is quite often asked is: Will DPT supporters in Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency stick to their party during the bye-election or will voters of Chhoekhor-Tang and in particular Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) voters and supporters deflect to Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT)?

Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency has been a DPT stronghold. Former Opposition Leader Dr. Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) had won three consecutive parliamentary elections from the constituency.

In the bye-election in Nanong-Shumar Constituency 2013, a DPT stronghold, voters continued their support for the party, despite the party leader and former Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley resigning after the 2013 elections.

“There is, therefore, a really high possibility that party loyalty will reign supreme. In fact, there are chances that DPT camp will emerge even stronger to ensure the political legacy of their former leader from the constituency continues,” said a political observer.

If this happens, it could possibly create massive roadblocks for the DNT aspirant from the constituency.

Even in terms of numbers, DPT is on a stronger footing. During the primary round election in 2018, DPT won a landslide victory. The combined votes of three contesting parties – Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and People’s Democratic Party couldn’t tally up with DPT’s total votes. The DPT secured 2,540 votes while the three parties combined together won 2,206 votes.

Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency has 6,051 registered voters.

During the general election in 2018, the former Opposition Leader secured 3,251 votes while the DNT candidate, Dawa, won 1,536 votes.

MP of Bartsham-Shongphu Constituency, Dr. Passang Dorji said, “Our Bhutanese electorate is not as ignorant as people think. They are laden with wisdom with a high level of both political consciousness and conscience. In politics too, our traditional societal value of thadhamtse and leyjumdre comes in play. Bhutanese people have a deep sense of gratitude to people who have been good to them. They know which party and candidate is genuine and sincere for their cause.

The MP further said he cannot speak for others but his understanding and faith is that people of Bumthang are people whose belief and response to their political choices and others are influenced by their deep reverence to truth, sense of gratitude, care for democracy and future generations.

“By-election is a special election for the people of Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency. It is all about the continuation of the hope they placed in the party and the representative in our democratic elections so far,” he added.

General Secretary (GS) of DNT, Phurba said that chances of winning are 50-50 and one cannot say who will win. “In my 10 years of political experience, I never believed in prediction of election results neither will I believe now. Election is unpredictable and anyone can win,” he added. 

A civil servant said that for him the election is one thing that is really unpredictable. “Yet, at least going by past experiences in terms of rooted party obedience, DPT has better chances. This is because the former Opposition Leader, in his capacity as agriculture minister in the first democratically elected government and as two-term Opposition Leader, has done a lot in his constituency, in terms of bringing development,” he said.

Another voter seeking anonymity said, “The constituents have huge respect, regard and gratitude for what former Opposition Leader Dr. Pema Gyamtsho has done. As a three-time winner from the constituency, it is clear that he was the favored one. Hence, even if the candidate is young, it’ll have minimum impact in swaying the votes.”

A resident of Bumthang said that people of Bumthang have been strong supporters of DPT because of the development introduced by the former Opposition Leader.

Another observer said that voters of Chhoekhor-Tang would probably try to maintain status quo as an expression of their respect and gratitude to their former Member of Parliament and party leader. “Party loyalty will surely come into play during the bye-election as DPT voters and supporters will try to continue the Opposition Leader’s political legacy and dominance in Chhoekhor-Tang.” Meanwhile, DNT will be introducing its candidate for the Chhoekhor-Tang Constituency on October 5. DPT has declared Tenzin Norbu, a 35-year old businessman, as its candidate.

pic courtesy: Facebook

Chencho Demafrom Thimphu