l Usha Drukpa, Thimphu
From several hurdles political parties are facing, especially the new ones, getting 47 candidates who can win or give a tough fight is a Herculean task.
If Druk Gakyid Tshogpa (DGT) gets registered there will be five political parties in the fray, namely: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT); Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT); Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) and Bhutan Kuenyam Party (BKP). This means that 282 candidates will be required.
While the PDP, as the ruling party does not seem to have any problems concerning candidates, the others are leaving no stone unturned to get 47 capable candidates, each. The opposition party, DPT, is also in the same fray as other parties, looking for capable candidates. Though new candidates have been announced, DPT has several constituencies to fill up, including constituencies of candidates, who cannot contest due to the age. Former Health Minister, Dasho Zangley Dukpa from Khar Yurung; Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba from South Thimphu and MP Karma Rongdel from Tsenbi-Membar are the ones who cannot contest. Though, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk falls in the same category, he has already found a replacement in Phub Tshering.
Additionally, DPT will need to get candidates from constituencies, where former members do not want to contest. The Journalist learnt that former MPs like Lyonpo Nandalal Rai; Lhatu from Khaling-Wamrong; Choeki Wangmo from Thrimshing Kangpara; Kezang Wangdi from Khamdang-Ramjar; Thinley Palden from Kanglung-Samkhar are few who have made it clear to their party that they will not contest in the 2018 elections. North Thimphu, Gelephu and few other constituencies are also without representatives.
However, DPT is confident that 2018 will not be an easy win for everyone. To achieve this, the Party is looking for strong candidates.
Meanwhile, DNT’s problem is not just getting good candidates, but also a leader. While all registered parties have Presidents, DNT has yet to name who would lead them. Informal sources told The Journalist that DNT is wooing top bureaucrats. But it is not certain if those the DNT is approaching are ready to take the risks. Just as other parties, DNT claims that there are no shortages of candidates and that the party is facing the problem of choice.
The entry of Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo as the President of BKP has given the party a moral boost. Though critics say that Dasho would have problems, the fact that she is still looked upon as the woman fighting corruption gives BKP an edge.
DCT still has its President, Aum Lily Wangchuk, who recently told The Journalist that DCT will get the best candidates.
Political observers say that every party will claim that they have or can get all 47 candidates. “It is through such measures that prospective candidates are attracted to a party. Would you not join the DNT if they say that 46 candidates are confirmed and you are the only one who has not yet confirmed,” a very senior political observer questioned.
On Leadership, he said that it is the “soul of a party.” “Political parties will tell the public to look at the candidate and not the party leader. But as a new democracy, in Bhutan, Leadership matters a lot,” he said, arguing that people are very aware that even if their representative is weak, a Strong President can solve their issues. “There are several examples,” he said.
Concerning prospective winners, a former editor and businessman said it is still very early to say anything. “It is important for all Bhutanese to know the political developments as these will shape the results of 2018. From the little that I know and hear, at this juncture it looks like new parties have made inroads in the grassroots,” he said, including that there are words doing the round that political parties are “hijacking” coordinators and supporters of other parties.
On getting the magic number (47) he said it would not be a problem. “Parties will not waste their time and resources fighting in a constituency where a political party is very strong. They will field someone and that way parties will manage 47 candidates,” he highlighted.