Dark, dirty and debauched competition

Politics, many thought so earlier as we geared up for the 2013 elections, was apparently kicking-off on a positive note. It seemed so as well for all the ostensible reasons that were plain to see.

Prior to the National Council (NC) election, political observers and regulators couldn’t help, but applaud and herald praises on the way the NC candidates were conducting themselves in front of the electorate. Forget any sign of a brewing animosity, rather candidates in some districts were seen seeking help from one another, sharing meals together, helping the other prepare for public meeting, and showing the never-seen camaraderie in politics.politics_605

And many felt perhaps, for all these reasons, that something different of sorts might be there for people to witness in the lower house elections this time. With the lessons acquired during the past five years, it was envisioned that all – parties, candidates, supporters and voters- have had metamorphosed into better political beings.

The concept of good politicking continued, so it is seemed, until the primary election. Parties’ campaign then were mainly focused on parties’ ideologies, their manifestos and pledges. More so, it hovered around reasons why the electorate should vote for that particular party.

And now, with the general election date drawing near, people mainly into politics are back again exhibiting their true colors. They are back again orchestrating – a repeat, or even more of what happened in 2008.

Many of us were all witnesses to the other side of politics in 2008. We saw it happening then that some villages were divided because of politics. A village which supported one party was indifferent to the other village if that one supported another party, breaking the age-long harmony and camaraderie that existed between these villages. Some were no longer in talking terms. There were real rifts even in homes and among family members.

And lately, mudslinging has become the order of the day in our political arena. The two parties, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and People’s Democratic Party, are again hurling allegations against each other and countering that, and their campaigns have now shifted to depicting the bad party of the either two. This is becoming visibly apparent everywhere, from common forum debates to social and mainstream media.

The two parties are unabatedly casting aspersions at each other. Most of it is all about dirty outpourings from the two parties, at least for now. And parties, literally and politically, are bent on striping the other party naked before the electorate.

There is no denying that political competition between the two parties, which will go on to form the government, is inevitable. Competition is good. But not so much so when it is becoming dark, dirty and debauched. We need to draw a line.


Chilling effect of cooling period

If getting into politics is arduous, getting out is neither an easy task. This is particularly true for civil servants who resigned but failed to contest and for those candidates who lost in the primary election. It seems like they are squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

Even if civil servants who took a gamble with politics want to return to their previous profession, they are deterred by the three-year cooling off period that an ex-politician should have from the day of discontinuation of all party and other political activities as per the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2012.

This means an individual who joined politics must officially deregister from the party and serve the three-year cooling off period before he becomes eligible for any form of employment in the civil service.

While it may appear unconvincingly palatable for civil servants who took the plunge into politics and contested the election, it doesn’t go well with several fresh graduates who were candidates or members of losing political parties.

Three year is definitely too long a time. Even if they wish to appear for the civil service examinations, the conditions forbid them, thus leaving them to look for jobs in the corporate and private sector. And getting employed is not easy with the job market already inundated with a large number of unemployed graduates.

The civil service may have its own reasons but this is definitely a hefty price candidates are paying for answering the so-called call of democracy and for risking everything to be part of the democratic process.cooling_off_period_

Similarly, a few civil servants who resigned to join politics but couldn’t contest the election are in a quandary too. While they have resigned from the civil service, many with specialized skills in scarcity, they were forbidden to contest the election just because they were not registered members of the political party. They are neither here nor there. It’s a double loss.

And as such, some feel that conditions shouldn’t be too restrictive for these few to get back into the system. An amicable solution may perhaps be sorted out instead of rendering step-motherly treatment. It is all the way better if the civil service is to gain through the experience and expertise of these people.

Whatever said and done, getting into politics can be an expansive affair, even a mammoth blunder. There is no denying the rhetoric, urging people to take part in the political process and answer to the call of the nation, but condition such as the cooling off period is just one, among many others, deterrent. Even if someone wants to contribute by being part of the democratic process, these rigid rules apparently restrict the movement as of now.

So instead of the rhetoric, there should be facilitation. Rather than being too restrictive, the rules must facilitate, have provisions that allow maneuvering in and out of the system easier.

The brouhaha post primary election

The primary election is over but not for the two winning parties – Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The two parties are busy again, politicking and preparing for the general election scheduled next month.horse

They are aware that they have still much work to be done and that they can still make a difference in the relatively short time they have. And as expected, the two parties are back to drawing board, working day in and out, calling closed-door meetings, gathering candidates in the capital, scrutinizing poll results and how candidates fared, drawing plans and strategizing for the main election.

But neither has it been much of a relaxing time for Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) either. Lately, its candidates are also busy, not so much about how to go about in the general election but deciding whether the party should consider the offer that some of the DNT candidates received for joining the winning parties.

However, DNT has presently left it up to the individual candidates to make the decision of joining the winning parties or not. But should they or shouldn’t they? All this has lately provoked heated debates.

Some in the political spectrum have expressed skepticism over DNT candidates swapping parties a week after the primary election. Their expressions stem from the rationale that a candidate that has identified with a particular party, supported and believed in its ideologies and causes, shouldn’t join the winning parties, just because their party was knocked out of the race.

Similarly, there is also all the brouhaha, questioning candidates’ morality, ethics and principles. It showed (if candidates join another party), according to a few, perhaps nothing more than how starved politicians could be for power. There are also a few unfounded proclamations that such swapping undermines the very fundamentals of our democracy.

Yet there is a segment of people who is in favor of DNT candidates hopping to the winning parties, and their reasons are even more genuine and palatable. While coalition can be detrimental, what is happening here is merely a drift of few candidates rather than the amalgamation of two parties, which even the Constitution doesn’t forbid so.

Many say if it wasn’t mainly for winning votes and creating division, such moves should be encouraged.

What harm is there if the candidates are doing so keeping in mind Bhutan and its future interest in mind? What harm is there if better candidates are there in these two winning parties as it will only strengthen these two parties that are going to form the ruling and opposition parties?

However, what we should be cautious about is that the game of politics shouldn’t wreak havoc for Bhutan and its future.

Two pass first hurdle

The speculation and doubt over which two political parties will make it through to Bhutan’s general election on July 13 has been finally put to rest for now with the much anticipated primary poll results out nationwide. According to people’s verdict, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will go on to fight for 47 seats in the National Assembly – a rematch of the 2008 elections.hurdle

Heartiest congratulations and kudos to the former ruling and the opposition parties for making it past the first hurdle, again after five long years. Whatever maybe the outcome of the final battle, they are definitely there for sure. The two parties are there to form the next ruling and the opposition party, therefore creating another critical watershed in the history of Bhutan.

The primary election was no doubt an arduous contest between the two incumbent parties. That’s what it appeared so initially. However, it was only after some time when DPT demonstrated that they are still the favorite to win this election as well with the party securing 93,949 votes against PDP’s 68,650 votes.

But one datum that is becoming more apparent now, going by this result, is that PDP is emerging out much stronger. Against DPT’s win in 33 constituencies, PDP has triumphed in 12 constituencies; something which didn’t happen in the 2008 elections. Whether a similar thing will happen in the general election, only time will tell?

Similarly, there were other revelations too. Things didn’t pretty turn out good for the new parties – Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DNT) – that contested the primary election, thus revealing that the incumbency factor still played a pivotal role in the present election results.

Votes secured by these two losing parties further showed that the country’s electorate was simply not in congruency with or for the change these parties purported to bring about. DNT’s slogan of ‘New Times, New Ideas’ simply didn’t go well with much of the electorate, and similar was the case with DCT’s ‘The change we need, the voice we deserve’. Perhaps, this was also indication that Bhutanese electorate is not yet ready for change, at least for now.

Despite the not-so-promising results, new parties as well as its candidates shouldn’t be deterred. Parties and candidates should be applauded for their spirit of democracy and for offering democratic choice to the people. What is a democracy if it was devoid of choices? This in itself is a remarkable feat for the new parties and its candidates.

But true to the adage that when horns are locked, there is just one winner; the winners here are DPT and PDP for now. They have surmounted the first hurdle successfully, but the show is not over yet.