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.”
This 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.