Monday, October 8, 2018

General Round of Bhutan’s 3rd Parliamentary Elections

The General round of Bhutan’s 3rd Parliamentary elections is scheduled to be held on October 18, 2018. On that day a section of the Bhutanese people will choose the party that will form the government, for the next 5 years.

This election is interesting on many fronts.

1. PDP - Many had believed that PDP would emerge the winner in the Primary rounds and even go on to win the elections to form the government for a second term. They were unceremoniously shunted out. Even more surprising, they fared poorly in the postal ballots, which caught many by surprise.

2. DNT - considered a rank outsider - dethroned the strident and swaggering PDP - to emerge the winner of the Primary round. The public perception was that they would trail a doubtful second, behind PDP.

3. DPT - to every body’s utter consternation - the DPT emerged victorious in the Primary rounds. In fact, in terms of number of constituencies won, they are the undisputed victors. Most had believed that DPT would soon cease to exist as a political entity. But just as the proverbial Phoenix rose from the ashes, so did DPT soar, from despondency to dominion - bringing home the truth about the unpredictable nature of politics.

4. BKP - seen by many as a party that would attempt to do the most right. Their promise to fight corruption should have gotten them truckloads of votes. Sadly it appears that fighting corruption is not on the priority list of the Bhutanese people - how poorly the party fared is proof of that.

The results of the Primary round are out in the open and there is no altering it. Now what is to be seen is how we will vote during the crucial General round, which is due on the 18th of October, 2018.

Will the Sharchops’ continue to remain doggedly unwavering in their loyalty towards their party of choice - the underdog DPT? Or will they capitulate to another round of lyrical renditions from the likes of Dasho Sonam Kinga and Ex-Police Chief Kipchu Tshering? While I personally remain unconvinced that their negativity made any difference at all, is it possible that the DNT President’s promise of a gaggle of Ministerial berths for the Eastern Dzongkhags would manage to wean away voters from the DPT? Will they change their minds at this critical juncture? We will have to wait and see. The Sharchop factor is key - and they make me jittery.

I am in no doubt that the Central votes will yet again go the DPT way. The Bumtaps are a willy lot, as are the Koortoeps. For the Bumtaps, it is CARPE DIEM! They are just too smart to let slip away an opportunity to elect a Prime Minister from their Dzongkhag. It is just too alluring.

Zhemgang has been a mixed bag for the DPT. While Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi is unshakable in his Panbang constituency, the Bardo-Trong constituency has been indecisive in the past. They voted for DPT in 2008 but against it in 2013. Encouragingly for the DPT, Zhemgang voted for them 100% during this Primary round. It is to be seen how they will vote during the General round.

I am not going to hazard a guess as to how the Western and Southern voters will behave. Voters in these two regions will have you believe that they are knowledgeable and learned in the selections they make. That they are inherently more astute than others, and that they know a thing or two about making informed choices. For all that, they make the most erroneous choices.

But I do believe that there might be an element of surprise awaiting the General round of elections.

My Take
In the General round it appears that the swing votes will be those from the West and the South. People are more or less convinced that DPT will sweep both Eastern and Central regions. I tend to agree - going by the primary results. Of the total 21 constituencies in these two regions, DPT won 20 constituencies. If this trend continues, DPT needs only 4 constituencies from the Southern and Western constituencies, to win the elections.

In addition to the total of 20 constituencies in the Eastern and Central regions, DPT also won one each from Paro and Samtsi - taking the total constituencies won to 22. This means that the DPT needs only 2 additional constituencies, to emerge the winner of the 2018 elections. Is this doable?

I think it is doable. Why? The following is my reasoning:

I think people of Haa and Wangdue are likely to wake up to the reality that they may be the only two Dzongkhags from where there will be no Ministers who will form the new cabinet. Now this is a big deal - people of Haa and Wangdue will realize that should the DPT win - and in all likelihood they will win - their Dzongkhags will have no Ministers to root for them. People of Haa and Wangdue are very competitive in nature and the fear that they might get left behind is bound to play on their minds. Is it likely that this very real eventuality might make them catapult in the last minute, and vote for DPT! Quite likely ---- and then again one never knows.

Finally, what intrigues me most is how the Indian government will behave, should the DPT win the elections. It is said that they believe that DPT is anti-India and pro-China. Regardless of how they perceive the party, the reality is that they will have to live with the party - for the next five years, should they come to power. Now, India can either decide that the meaningful way forward would be to reconcile their ways and show that India is behind Bhutan - regardless of the party in power, or they can continue to give DPT a hard time and edge them towards China. India will have to make that choice. But certainly from my point of view - should the DPT come to power, India would be presented this God sent opportunity to work at removing some serious misconceptions and put India-Bhutan relations on a more solid footing. It is becoming clear that people of Bhutan have increasingly become edgy about the deteriorating relationship between two long time friends. How India will treat DPT, if they do come to power, will demonstrate to the people of Bhutan whether they have Bhutan’s interests at heart, in addition to their own, which are no less legitimate.

Or, India can yet again repeat the kerosene and cooking gas withdrawal stunt.

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