Women and politics

It may not be robust, but we are at least witnessing developments taking place in existing and new political parties that have come up to contest in the next elections, albeit at a snail’s pace.women

Two political parties from the already existing ones have surfaced up recently, promising better choices to the people and with different ideologies. And there is also a rumor of the fifth party in the making.

While the old parties are busy approaching its former candidates, strategizing their slogan, logo and ideologies amidst the worry of running out of time to settle old party dues; new parties are devising ways to have more women representation in their party.

But will more women come forth? The stance of Bhutanese women in politics would definitely be something to witness as we build up to the 2013 elections.

How many of them have been approached by political parties as of now? How many of them are mulling over resigning from work or taking a break from home? And how many actually believe that they can make a change?

The women voters’ turnout was exemplary in the last election, with the number exceeding that of the male voters. But the same wasn’t the case when it was about women contesting election. They were simply uninterested or shied away.

Similar thing is happening even today. For instance, four out of six former female candidates of PDP have opted to stay away from politics.

Their responsibilities as homemaker and having to look after the family, calling politics as a male-dominated arena and personal issues were cited as reasons for their refusal to enter politics.

It seems the number of females venturing into politics won’t change. We have today a combined 14% women representation in the parliament and 0.1% women representation in the local government.

Against this backdrop, there are also debates rife whether gender quotas should be introduced to bring about proportionate representation of women in the government.  Whether Bhutan should have a quota system introduced through national legislation or through political parties?

No denying, quota rule has helped increase women’s representation in the parliament. But is a quota system in Bhutan absolutely necessary? And what do we want to have eventually- quality representation or quantity representation?

We proclaim that there is no discrimination against women. We proclaim that the stereotypical attitude against women has not obstructed them from being elected in politics. But this is far from being true.

A majority still has this belief even today that a man makes a better politician than a woman. We have facilitated women’s entry into politics, but sadly we continue to have this same standpoint.  [June 3,  2012]

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Battling it out in social media

The ruling party, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, pitches its leadership with a tweet: “The rise of Jigmi Y Thinley was not an accident or an anomaly, or even a mystery…” It shares a link to a news profile article which almost edifies the prime minister after he led the DPT to the historic win of the 2008 elections.

The opposition party, People’s Democratic Party, explains its ideology on twitter: “To build TRUST between the center and the districts for cooperation in developmental activities & communication.”

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa promotes its president by quoting her. “Equity and sustainability has always been close to my heart even when I design a simplest of the projects – Aum President Dorji Choden,” the tweet reads.

The president of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, Lily Wangchuk, explains how she got her leadership aspirations and tweets: “My mother taught me to stand up for myself and to stand up for those who can’t do it on their own.”

A relieved Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party tweets: “Finally secured a candidate to contest from Nanong-Shumar constituency.”

SocialMediaThis is the Bhutanese political parties in the social media. Twitter and Facebook have become virtual battlegrounds. The parties are literally battling it out and it is only intensifying with the elections drawing nearer.

It’s all there to see – parties advocating its beliefs and ideologies, introducing candidates, updating news, highlighting issues, and selling its magic formulae to lead the country to a new era of peace and prosperity. The race is on. The Facebook accounts of political parties are in to get as many friends as possible while the customized party pages are advocating readers to ‘like’ each and every post the party makes. Twitter accounts are in the fight to get maximum followers.

Making it all the more interesting is the almost round-the-clock presence of the Chief Election Commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, on social media. So far, his presence has been very amicable – interacting, educating, and informing people about all issues related to elections. He seems to enjoy himself in the virtual space as he seems to know almost all the regular twitter users and comfortably jokes even with anonymous account holders, all of whom gives him his due.

While we know that the social media will indubitably play a major role in the upcoming elections, many quarters have raised concern over the undue influence the anonymous people on social media may yield. In 2008, the controversial website, www.bhutantimes.com, was unreasonably harsh on the PDP and one person by the name of ‘commonman’ religiously dedicated himself to tarnish the image of PDP leadership. After five years, we know that nothing could be done about it.

Today, the social media is much more advanced than in 2008. We are also seeing a lot of anonymous people coming up on social media with some crossing the line of sanity while attacking politicians and political parties. Compared to 2008, it is very likely that we will see many more ‘commonman’ in these elections. This is nothing less than disturbing.

As such, it is vital how we perceive social media. We know it is an important tool. We know it is effective. We know we cannot ignore it. We also know it is very difficult to monitor it. Therefore, it is important to be wary of the negative influences it can cast.     

Did we learn?

election 2008As we are about to hit to the polls once again, after almost four-and-a-half-year later, it’s also time to contemplate our odyssey – the tryst with elections and democracy – so far.

The start hasn’t been smooth given some confusion in the beginning or call it ‘our naivety’, but we have managed to emerge out successful. More than a debacle, it has been a success story, at least we can now brag about it so.

An enriching experience altogether, but there were also plenty of lessons to be learned? Have we done so? Have we metamorphosed for the better or worse? And are we better now compared to what we were in 2008? These are questions we need to ask ourselves, timely as we gear up for another elections.

Indubitably, there were many lessons. Perhaps, that was also the first time we were tested. And the first time, we were exhibited how politics can be debauched or exposed to the other side of politics. We saw it happening then. We will see it happening now as well.

For instance in 2008, prior to the elections, some villages stand divided because of politics. A village which supported one party was indifferent to the other neighboring village if the latter supported another party. The rural folks in these villages who had coexisted in harmony and camaraderie since ages were no longer in talking terms. The negative remnants of the first elections are perhaps apparent even today.

We saw politics creating real rift even in homes as well, relatives becoming bitter enemies and the bad side of politics seemingly seeping into the very family bonds.

Somewhere in January 2008, before the elections, a woman in Shershong, Gelephu, was reportedly man-handled by her husband, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) supporter after she was found attending a Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) meeting. The wife was literally dragged out of the meeting hall by her husband.

Similarly, there were such similar reports sprouting up in other places as well. In Trashiyangtse, there were allegations that four young women who were PDP supporters were assaulted on their way home by DPT supporters.

If that wasn’t enough then, there were the two parties themselves so much engrossed into mudslinging, allegations and counter allegations. They were themselves casting aspersions at each other. Dirty outpourings from the two parties continued unabatedly till the elections were over. Further, party workers in rural areas were seen capitalizing on certain issues just to win votes.

We have seen it all – politics unsparing even poor individuals, families, villages and communities- in 2008 when there were just two parties. We have five parties this time and we cannot envision the predicament if the same occurrences are to occur again. But again, did we learn then?