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All the King's men

Bhutan goes for the third National Assembly election with Primary elections scheduled for 15th September and General elections on October 20th this year. 
Four parties are participating in the 2018 elections.  The four parties are campaigning in their respective constituencies.  The Election Commission of Bhutan forbids the candidates to campaign in other constituencies save the party presidents. 
 
People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

The oldest and first legal political party to be formed was the Peoples’ Democratic Party established on March, 2007 with former Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay as party coordinator and Fourth king’s Brother-in-law, Sangay Nidup, former minister as President.  The PDP from the onset of its political journey, has always projected itself as a party aligned with the institution of monarchy. Mr. Ugen Tsechup Dorji on record in 2013, went on to say that PDP is the party to strengthen and consolidate the interests and rights of the monarchy.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT)

The second legal political party to be formed was the Druk Phunesum Tshogpa (DPT) on 25 July, 2007 after the merging of All Peoples’ Party (Bhutan) and Bhutan Peoples’ Unity Party with former Minister, Jigme Y Thinley as the President.  Mr.Jigme Y.Thinley is matrimonially related to the royal family and in 2008, his son Palden Y. Thinley married Princess Kesang Chhoden Wangchuck.  The majority of DPT members were known to be former Kingsmen.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) was registered on January 20, 2013. The party was created by financer Mr. Ugen Tsechup Dorji, brother of Sangay Nidup, founder of PDP, and confidante Mr.Tenzin Lekphell.

The party appointed Dorji Choden, and several prominent candidates of DNT in the primary elections of 2013 were the former PDP candidates of 2008. The seven members including the party president, vice president and prominent candidates of DNT merged with PDP for the General elections. The PDP winning by a landslide victory over the DPT firmly ensured these members seats of power.

Mr.Tenzin Lekphell as General Secretary of the party has meanwhile kept the party afloat with Dr. Tandin Dorji as the President biding their time for the forthcoming elections.  In May this year, the party entrusted Dr. Lotey Tshering as the President counting on his validation of receiving the Druk Thuksay(Heart Son of Bhutan) medal from the King along with his oratory skills turning the fortune of the party. Notwithstanding, the power behind the scene are confidant of striking a deal  once again to bring the PDP back to power with DNT help… again.  

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP)

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) was founded by Mr. Sonam Tobgay in 2013 but was unable to participate in 2013 primary elections after Election Commission of Bhutan did not grant the party registration. The Party has roped in Aum Neten Zangmo, former Chief of Anti-corruption Commission, as party president. The party wants to present an image of incorruptibility. This is the party’s first election.

 Kingly Intervention in party politics?

There is report within the country that fifth King is trying to influence the outcome of primary election. The Army Chief Lt.General Batoo Tshering has ordered military personal to vote for the other three political parties beside Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT).  The fate of postal ballot of over five hundred army votes, posted in northern border are already sealed. In addition, the former members of armed forces who have returned to their villages too, are instructed to vote for PDP. There are 11,500 postal ballot availed for armed forces.

The King is the commander-in-chief of the Royal Bhutan Armed forces and command from the Army Chief to standing and retired armed forces cannot be his discretion without the consent of the King.  It is no strange fact on the part of the King to intervene in primary rounds after his catastrophic intervention in 2013 General Election. Over thousands of the King’s portraits were desecrated.  The people are of the view that the fifth King favors PDP and DNT making it to the General elections.

All four political parties speak of strengthening democracy and the institution of democracy. The new parties appeal to voters to give them an opportunity for governance arguing that the win for two old parties will mean the consolidation of political parties and DNT in particular, is implying the rising threat to the institution of monarchy from party power center.

In reality, all parties wear the same stripes. Their manifesto and populist overtures are just a gimmick played out to the public. All political strings are actually pulled by the palace. The genuine democracy and free choice of people are either restricted or manipulated.  The people who have demanded for democracy reforms in the early 1990s are either behind bars at Chamgang central jail or in exile. No mention whatsoever of exiles issues by all four political parties itself shows their limitations and speaks volumes of Bhutan’s state of democracy.  

The exiled political party integration will only establish true democracy and liberty. All political parties pledge to strengthen security and sovereignty of country but fails to spell out policies. The DNT does not care to outline foreign policy in their manifesto while other three political parties states to strengthen the ties with India and regional networks. 

After all, all those political parties are groomed by the crowns.  There is a rumour that the former King favours DPT and BKP making general rounds. This election is a father and son game to see who outwits the other. The old guard or new blood?

The Druk National Congress is of the opinion that the people of Bhutan should be given the voting rights in a free and fair environment.

 

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