The journey has just begun

If the election results this year was all about the so-called ‘change’, the way the ruling government, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), bestowed ministerial portfolios to its candidates was nothing short of that.

Definitely, it has been a change in the trend – a significant departure from the past where it was usually the old and the experienced, ones who had been in the system for far too long, assuming the much coveted positions in the cabinet.

But things are taking a detour now, and all for the better reasons. Young leaders are taking the helm of ministries, something unimaginable a few years back. This is definitely a grand opportunity for the young leaders to set a new precedent of leadership.Dakyen

No denying, the orange scarf and the lofty sword of honor the ministers have been bestowed with comes with a mammoth burden of responsibility. If it is about opportunities, it is also about challenges as well.

For instance, how do we get the economy back in form, which shows but little signs of recovery? How do we slim the widening chasm between the haves and the haves-not? How do we transform the private sector as an engine of growth? How do we solve the worsening rupee problem and our burgeoning debt? And how do we translate the average 9% GDP growth rate over the years into equitable economic development and employment creation for our youth?

How do we end corrupt practices in the construction business? Or what will be the fate of those buildings whose constructions are halfway for want of loans? How do we deal with substandard infrastructure and those in piteous conditions? How do we tackle the augmenting rural-urban migration as human-wildlife conflict, limited land and other factors are increasingly driving away people out of rural areas, leaving behind forsaken villages and fallow farms?

And most importantly, how do we tread forth as a sovereign nation crammed between the Asia’s two biggest powers? How do we go about with our international relations? How do we attract foreign investment? Will WTO remain a distant dream for Bhutan? How do we diversify our export baskets and become self-reliant?

How do we continue providing free health services and carry on with infrastructure development in the wake of donors pulling out? How do we meliorate the quality of education? And how do we keep our culture intact and bridge the gaping cultural divide?

The picture at present is far from rosy. The onus, therefore, falls on these elected leaders and the ruling party, PDP that won the elections riding on the promises and idea of change. They must ensure that not only do they fulfill their promises but also lead by example.

The journey, a daunting one at that, has in fact just begun for the ruling government.

Making (non)sense of democracy

When People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost in 2008 elections, a band of disgruntled PDP supporters knocked on the doors of the palace, petitioning the King to do away with democracy by reinstating the Monarchy again. This move was naïve at best and ignorant at worst. Then, it was the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) supporters who found this whole theatrics a concoction of some demented minds.

The tables have turned in 2013 elections. After winning just 15 seats, angry and disillusioned DPT supporters drew up a 15-point grievances at the party convention this week to be submitted to the King, lest the elected members should give up the role of the opposition. The message was clear – they were willing to go the extreme end of holding the democratic process at ransom if their grievances were not addressed. The DPT convention also saw some of its members make outrageously bold statements against important institutions in the country.

Such acts of mindless audacity do not bode well for Bhutan’s young democracy. While the electorate and party supporters should enjoy the freedom to vent out their disappointments, they must understand that in democratic elections, it is the will of the majority that ultimately counts.paved-road

Truth is, like it or not, the people of Bhutan have given their verdicts. PDP has won and will now form the new government. If there were malpractices in the election process, there are appropriate channels and institutions to redress the issues. First, we must exhaust these available means. The King must be the last and the final authority of appeal.

In fact, it’s time Bhutanese people understand that it’s best not to drag the Monarch in every little scuffle we have. The sanctity of the throne cannot be adulterated by petty political maneuverings of parties or groups. The King is and must always be kept above politics.

Political parties take part in elections with a profound sense of purpose – to serve the nation in the best possible way they can. At least that’s what their election campaigns are all about. Post elections, both winning and losing parties should have the grace and courage to accept the results.

More than that, they should reach out to each other and the people to reconcile the differences instead of fueling more disquiet and tension. As a small country, any rift, big or small, could pose potential danger to our unity and stability. And citizens and politicians alike must always keep the larger interest of the nation in mind.

At the end of the day, Bhutan’s democracy must live up to its unique features, which we so unabashedly brag about. Despite the heat and dust, we must aspire to make our politics exemplary. If we want to sustain and leave a legacy of a vibrant democracy into perpetuity, we must pave the way for it today.

The verdict of the people

Curtains have been finally drawn, speculations put to rest. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has triumphed the 2013 general election – an election that many saw as a constricted contest till the results were announced nationwide late Saturday evening.

That this is another historic moment for PDP and the winning candidates of the two parties are irrefutable, but it is also so for Bhutan and its people. More than anything, it’s the verdict of the people. It’s over which party the majority of the Bhutanese have laid their faith and reposed on to;  to be the guardian of the dream, aspiration, and destiny of not only themselves, but also of the nation. Pdp_official_logo

So the people’s verdict is here. PDP will go on to form Bhutan’s second democratically elected government after having had secured seats in 32 of the total 47 constituencies, while the former ruling government, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), will now take the helm of the opposition with a total win in 15 constituencies.

The 2013 general election has definitely been a rematch of the 2008 election, except that it wasn’t similar to what happened in 2008 when DPT, in what some dubbed as the world’s largest political victory, clinched 45 of the total 47 seats, thus leaving a two-member opposition party.

But the results this time are definitely not the same as that of 2008. There are other revelations as well.

First, the incumbency factor was a real disadvantage to the new parties that contested the primary election, however, it wasn’t the case so in the general election. According to what some say, it was the anti-incumbency factor against the ruling DPT that translated into votes for PDP in the general election.

Secondly, even if DPT made numerous developments on the social front from farm roads to rural electrification, health and agriculture, and even blustered of having had achieved all what it promised to people back in 2008 and lowered poverty by half, the party had other baggage too; for instance, the party getting mired into controversy and corruption issue, DPT’s firm stand that the country’s economy was doing well even if others asserted otherwise, and its alleged attribution for the subsidies cut from India.

As such, the above reasons only favored PDP. Another datum, as some maintain, is that PDP, therefore, stood out as a credible option. There was at least a party as an option that voters could try out and give an opportunity to, thus only favoring PDP. It was also indication that Bhutanese electorate were ready to grapple with change, and people voted so.

However, this is just a start of another journey. It’s also time for reconciliation and to keep our political differences aside. More than a party winning, it should always be the people that wins ultimately. And here people have won.

Doing it right!

Exactly a week from now, by around this time next week, Bhutan would have finished conducting its second parliamentary election. The country would have finished selecting 47 candidates from 47 constituencies or the second set of parliamentarians for the next five-year term.just vote

It would also be a much of a relief for the politically-fatigued electorate, especially the urban intelligentsia, who have been rambling that politics were driving them insane, and were wishing that elections were soon over.

Nonetheless, the time next week would also be that of jubilation for one of the two parties that will take the helm of the country as the ruling government and for party candidates securing a seat in the Parliament as its member.

And by then, keen followers of politics and analysts would have also given their reasoning and logic on the outcome of the election. Back in the villages, even our rural folks would be heaving a sigh of relief for not having had to attend frequent party meetings and be listeners to political ramblings amid works in the fields. Works may be seen resuming again in the farms, their main source of livelihood.

Here, around this time next week, we may envision things would be normal again, or normalcy taking over the day gradually, however, how easily it would happen so is another question.

The political drama will have definitely ended, but not the rags and garbage that it would be leaving behind – the signs of division or split in the society, distrustfulness among each other and estrangement that have been reportedly apparent and happening during this election, and further fueled by the two political parties.

For instance, farmers from Punakha who are presently bringing their farm produce, hiring trucks and Mahindra Bolero, to Thimphu exhibit the other doings of politics. Farmers supporting one political parties usually refrained from letting others that supported another party join their group while hiring vehicle for transportation, and vice versa. Similarly, such happenings, perhaps, are not confined to Punakha alone.

And coming back to the present, the electorate must also realize that we have this mammoth responsibility this week before we go on to the next, to go to the polls and exercise our franchise. More than the time next week, the act we would do this week will determine and shape the future of our country and people. This is the truth for now.

For all the obvious reasons and keeping in the mind the larger picture – democracy, we should play our roles today to ensure that. The experiences of political fatigue and tiredness resulting from debauched politics seem to have culminated as of now, but that shouldn’t deter us from going to the polls. People elsewhere have died for this right.

And so continues the drama

Is politics ever really clean? Not so much if we examine the recent political developments taking shape in places across the country. The allegation of malpractices from the two parties that will be contesting the general election has only intensified even if we are a little more than a week away from the general election.

There is simply no signs of stopping. Mudslinging, allegation, subjective attacks, and counter allegation are continuing to occupy much of the space on air and in print as well.

And while how aware our parties and party workers are is another question, the air of excitement that was once palpable among the electorate earlier, especially urban voters, is not there anymore. They are simply tired, sick, and bored to the brim.up

Some seem astounded with the political drama now unfolding and a few can’t help but wish that the elections were over soon. Sooner, the better. They seem right as well – choosing to get over something undesired rather than letting up the rags and garbage of party politics slowly choking their sanity.

Therefore, it also evokes the critical question whether we as Bhutanese have been able to even comprehend the meaning of democracy. And not in the least is it about driving people insane, breeding contempt and destroying the little happiness of people.

It’s also becoming more befitting at this juncture to ask ourselves where we are headed to. Where are all these taking us to? We need to
know that, as parties and supporters, we shouldn’t stir up and create a mess of the society, the signs of which are becoming apparent now, just for short-term political gains. Ultimately, the long-term price we ought to pay could be enormous. Political parties and candidates should instead set a good precedent here. They should be the examples or role models that the electorate can look up to. But sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case so, at least not for now.

Amid the political jabbering and bickering, we also need to ask ourselves what we eventually intend to become? What is our destination? Perhaps, it won’t be wrong to assume that we want a flouring democracy with strong democratic institutions. Political parties, therefore, should also ask themselves if they are in any way contributing to this cause.

Going by the political developments right now, political parties are even vying to project a majority of our democratic institutions on the wrong side, basically washing off their hands from everything that would translate into lesser votes for the parties.

For instance, democratic institutions and other autonomous agencies such as the anti-corruption commission and judiciary, the army and media, have been dragged into politics and parties’ meaningless quest for power. We have to know that some institutions are and must remain above politics.