To campaign or not to campaign

Puran Gurung/ Thimphu Political parties are back in the fray, trying to ramp up their image and support base with the 2023 elections now in sight. The former Prime Minister, Dasho Tshering Tobgay, has lately become one of the most active in the public domain in an obvious attempt to make use of the social media’s reach and power. He regularly hosts a video thread on Telegram where the people can connect with him directly and discuss any issue of interest including, of course, his views and takes on topical happenings. Bhutan Kun-Nyam Party (BKP) has also been visible, albeit off and on, reassuring the voters that the party, despite having disqualified for campaign funding from the state, will be back, supposedly stronger and committed as ever. Whether or not the resurgence of political parties and their views on social media platforms border on campaigning is a moot point but one thing is clear: politicking may have lost some of its gloss among the Bhutanese voters but to the players themselves, it remains ever enticing. Of course, anything that involves huge power has always been addictive. In the days to come, what is likely to make waves and keep the Bhutanese electorate on their toes is the new party, the so called Druk Thundrel Tshogpa. If the bits and pieces that one gets to hear on the grapevine is any indication, the party is aiming pretty big, and rumours and facts will only keep on coming as the D-Day draws nearer and nearer. The foibles of the parties will likely never end. In 2017, the then prime minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay took the DNT to task for what he construed was a subtle campaigning attempt stating the press releases being issued by the DNT then were not of “national interest”. “DNT doesn’t have presence in the parliament but yet every now and then, they issue press releases,” Dasho Tshering Tobgay then said. “I think it is good but it is good only if the press releases are well thought-out, that they understand the issues and what they are raising is in national interest.” He continued: “If it is just to be seen, to be heard once in a while that DNT is still alive, I think that motivation is wrong.” If PDP is backtracking on their statement released in 2017, the party confirms they are not. “No, PDP will not backtrack the PM’s words in that video. The press conference remark of the former prime minister is taken out of context,” said the former Prime Minister, also the President of PDP, Dasho Tshering Tobgay. The PM’s comment was in response to the question from the press concerning the Press Release of DNT stating the PM and FM should resign. The PM stated the submission made by the DNT was a baseless accusation targeted to tarnish the government. The PM affirmed the financial incentives approved by the government was constitutionally legal and economically sound policy measure. What DNT did through that Press Release was them grabbing desperate media and public attention. The Press Release was not at all seen to be positive nor constructive, and it resembled election-mode accusations. Thus, the PM remarked that it was too soon for any political party to be picking an election-like fight with the government. But, what the PDP is doing now through the weekly telegram video discussions is engaging with our members and voters to discuss the issues and concerns that matter to them, which in most cases relates to what the government do or do not do. The telegram video program is not the beginning of the PDP’s political campaign for the upcoming - we bet that will be much better and smarter than mere press releases and video messaging. The telegram program is an interactive engagement platform of the PDP reaching out to our members and general people who are interested in discussing political or social issues that matters to them. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering continues to insist that the DNT’s press releases then were of “national interest”. However, on the current developments, he warned it is too early to get into political mood with solid two years left to the upcoming elections. His concern is that it may disrupt the level playing field. According to the DNT MP from Nganglam, Karma Dorji, there is nothing wrong in campaigning early. “Parties outside the parliament must campaign to be visible - DNT and DPT already have the platform. We are politicians and this is expected.” On campaigning, if it is legal or not, the paper will interview the Election Commission of Bhutan for the next issue.