Leaders & elections

People say political leaders can turn the tide of elections

l Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu

In several countries, leaders of political parties play a very important role as the party’s face, voice, ideology and identity. A party’s leader is influential and powerful, with election results sometimes depending wholly on the leader. Would leaders have the same influence in Bhutanese polity?

Member of the National Assembly from Bumdeling-Jamkhar, Trashiyangtse, Dupthob, agrees that leaders are important and play vital roles within and outside the party machinery. Inside the party, leaders are crucial for facilitating peace, tranquility and decision making. With the public, leaders manage their party’s relationship and also take a leading role in developing and communicating party policy, especially election messages, to the electorate.

“Leaders are also the most influential person(s) of parties who can make a big difference in the lives of the party’s entire candidates,” he added.

On party leaders (Presidents) or candidates making differences in elections, Dupthob replied that good and popular candidates can make a huge difference to parties.

General Sectary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and aspiring candidate from Gangzur-Minje, Lhuntse, Sonam Jatsho, said a party’s president or leader is very important. He added that a party’s leader is usually the Prime Minister (PM) if the party wins. “Based on the party leader, people can get an idea of what kind of a government it will be if that party wins.”

He also agreed that popularity of candidates can make a big difference. “People are now aware that at the end, it all depends on the candidate – his or her knowledge, experience, character and intention.”

He highlighted that the president plays a vital role in preparing the party’s manifesto and campaign strategy. “It’s the leader and his team of 47 candidates that determines the strength of the party and the quality of government we would have if the party wins the election.”

A civil servant, who sought anonymity, said that while “the process of democracy is a collaborative effort, yet the determinant is leadership.”  So leader(s) is the most important person of political parties”. He underlined that literature on democracy says that leaders with charisma; and transformational leaders often sets the tone and momentum in an electoral process.

Similarly, another civil servant said that leaders are important for all parties as they are the main image of the political party. He said that the image of the leader makes vast differences during elections. “Beside we need good leaders to row the boat in the better direction,” he added. The leader is also the one who takes all risks and provides answers, which party representatives may not.

On candidates, he said popularity of candidate does matter in elections. “There can be candidates who are equally influential like the President,” he said.

A former Journalist said leadership is the “key.” “Today, the popularity of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has reached an unprecedented level. People listen to his speeches and gain confidence that he will walk the talk,” he said. On the other side, he said that if a party’s president and his plans are not known by the people, people would not believe candidates. “What a party’s president pledges during campaigns are very important. This can turn the tide,” he said.

He also said that a good leader adds credibility to the party and vice versa. “That is why the political parties are so keen on getting someone with strong work experience, without any baggage and with good portfolios as their party President. “It can be said that the Bharat Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India because of the dynamism of Narendra Modi. Similarly, BJP won in the recent Gujarat elections because of Prime Minister Modi,” he added.

Another civil servant also spoke on similar lines. He said that it is imperative to have a very strong party leader, who will make all the difference, mainly when it pertains to elections. Nonetheless, he said that people do vote for candidates who have made a difference in their community, irrespective of which party he or she represents.

He mentioned that a clean, humble and credible leader is the soul of a party. On candidates, he added that at the end “all boils down the accomplishment of the candidate prior to joining politics, and how he/she has touched the lives of the people.” The National Council member from Samtse, Sangay Khandu, was cited as an example, of a person who is popular because of the excellent track record of his family and what they did for the community.

Meanwhile, from the political parties, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) remain as parties, which have not announced who their prime ministerial candidate is. Though, Lily Wangchuk is the DCT’s president, the party has not officially declared any potential prime ministerial candidate.



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