Observers say DPT cannot be written-off despite fourth consecutive loss

Tenzin Choden, Thimphu

 The ruling party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s Karma Gyeltshen edged over Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT)’s Jigme Tashi in the recent by-elections of the Khamdang-Ramjar constituency, resulting in the fourth straight loss of the latter in as many by-elections in the last couple of years. The former secured a total of 3,152 votes and the latter 2,109 votes. With the next general elections just over a year ahead, DPT’s consistent loss is looked by some as the party losing foothold at the national level. However, there are others who say that the DPT cannot be written off just yet.

“It is very early to say anything and there are several factors that could have contributed to the loss of DPT candidates,” Tandin Wangchuk, from Trashiyangtse, a resident of Thimphu says. According to Tandin, people need to look at the candidates that DNT fielded in all the by-elections. “In Tang, Bumthang, they had Dawa, a very strong candidate. Similarly, in Mongaar, it was Karma Lhamo, a former DPT candidate and in Nganglam DNT fielded current Lyonpo Karma Dorji, another strong candidate.” Tandin says that DNT’s Karma Gyeltshen was fielded during the 2018 elections and before. “He already had strong connections with the people, and it was definite that he would win,” Tandin says, adding that Karma Gyeltshen won very easily. In the words of Tandin, all the four by-elections had “nothing to do with the party.” “It was fully candidate-centric. DNT party cannot claim that the party mattered,” he says, underlining that DPT’s stronghold in the east is “still very much there.” “We cannot write-off DPT.”

A civil servant, on the grounds of anonymity, differs slightly with Tandin, but agrees that DPT will be there in the next elections, if “dynamics do not change.” “I would agree that DPT will be there in 2023, too. But it is a question if the party will have the same kind of clout and support as seen earlier,” he says. Nonetheless, he underlines that other dynamics could come in play. “We have been hearing about a third party coming in and if that party does come in, there are probabilities of DPT supporters and even candidates moving to that party. If not, DPT will still be there and they could take a chunk of the vote, though it cannot be said if they will be there in the parliament or not,” he says. According to him, current factors are poised against the DNT, too. “The pandemic has hit all the people around the country. This is working against the DNT,” he says. When asked why and how DNT is winning if the pandemic is playing a role he, too says that the by-elections are the “results of candidates winning and not the party.” 

While others that the paper spoke to speak along similar lines, a former bureaucrat said that at the national level, everyone needs to take into consideration the roles and effects of other parties. “We still have the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bhutan Kuenyam Party (BKP). And everything has to be looked holistically. Parties may contest, but ultimately, which parties come to the parliament will be determined by what other parties do. It is early to say that DPT will not exist or lose in the first round of elections in 2023.”

Meanwhile, some media reports say that the victory of the DNT candidate in Khamdang-Ramjar constituency is due to the fact that he belonged to the ruling party.  The MP elect, won from 15 polling stations from the 20 that exists in the constituency. The constituency voted for the DPT in 2008, followed by the PDP in 2013 and then the DPT again in 2018.  However, the constituency became vacant after its former MP Kuenga Loday resigned in November last year after a controversy involving the illegal construction of a road. The High Court convicted him and five others, after which he appealed to the Supreme Court, which is yet to deliver its verdict.