Bhutan’s politics in 2013: A Layman’s Perspective
Five years ago in 2008 when democracy was gifted to the people from the Golden Throne; I was out of country studying in the college in India. Then only source I learnt about democracy was state-owned newspaper Kuensel website. I biasedly find other papers undependable. Social media was new in Bhutan and the then two political parties were yet to learn the power of social media. Perhaps, I was also just learning to use the internet by then as I didn’t even get to touch computer in the school in eastern Bhutan. I didn’t know how dirty or good politics is then in Bhutan. I didn’t know until few years later that some people in Merak-Sakteng constituency who had been friends and neighbors for generation didn’t talk anymore because some supported Druk Phuensum Tshogpa(DPT) and other supported People’s Democratic Party(PDP). All I knew was DPT won 45 seats of 47 creating historic landslides victory. I truly believed that the wishes of throne were dutifully fulfilled both by political parties and the people.
Five years down the lane, the political scene in the nation has changed. Election Commission of Bhutan has given go -ahead to four of five registered political parties for the primary round. Of five political parties namely People Democratic Party, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa and Bhutan Kyuengam Party, the last one was disqualified on the ground that it failed to give two tentative candidates from Gasa District which has around 30 graduates in total. Four parties petitioned Election Commission of Bhutan to reconsider its decision on Bhutan Kuenngam Party which ECB refused. Druk Chirwang Tshogpa even offered one of its candidates to BKP. After its failure to convince ECB to reconsider, BKP then accused DCT of buying its candidate which the president of DCT vehemently denied.
Then there is little hiccup by Election Commission f Bhutan. When they deem necessary to validate degree certificate by Royal University of Bhutan, they didn’t deem it necessary to crosscheck whether the candidates were civil servants from Royal Civil Service Commission. Two teachers not only disregard the civil service code of conduct by joining politics, two parties also violated electoral laws by knowingly fielding two civil servants so that they can pass screening process to get to primary round. However, ECB was quick to deny its mistake by declaring that verification process for the candidates are yet to be done which comes to a question why degree pass certificates of individuals were sought from RUB if all they need was name lists of 47 candidates. Without finger pointing, it is not the first time, ECB take decision on its whims. The first such decision was taken by ECB whereby it allows one of the mayor candidates to contest without fulfilling its census requirement where one has to be residents of constituency from where he/she contest for certain period of time. Secondly, the election of National Council should be done on the day of its dissolve which Election Commission ignores. The unilateral decision by ECB not only shows its immaturity, it also shows its lack of coordination with other constitutional bodies.
Five years after the democracy, the democracy may not or may have succeeded but politics certainly did succeeded. Today, politics have penetrated every aspect of life where lies and false promises beautifully thrown into the faces of public where majority of dutiful voters are either illiterate or semi-literate. It is in social media where the mudslinging and political defamations are at worst. Some mainstream media also works almost like mouthpiece of some political parties. And like it or not, even a household is divided into four parties. In my house, my wife supports Druk Chirwang Tshogpa because she like Aum Lily Wangchuk, mother-in-law supports DPT because she likes former Prime Minister, my brother-in-law supports PDP because he thinks DPT is full of corruption and my father-in-law supports Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa because he was promised some salary if he can convince villagers to vote for it. I am only force that acts like moderator among their illogical debates on party logos where peach flower is ephemeral, horse will kick, crane will drop or swan is so un-Bhutanese.
Some people in social media seem everywhere from Facebook to twitter as if they are paid to be mouthpiece of party defaming all parties and individuals his party doesn’t like. It seems now people realize how 80 thousand educated people in Facebook and 10 educated people in twitter can influence the outcome of 2013 election. Or maybe they just think it will have ripple effects just like it did in 2008.Some newspapers have also started writing constantly against some parties forgetting that ethics of media objectivities is not only in truth of content but also in nature of coverage and design. It tends to highlight and magnify the wrong while downsizing the right. Politics is also in in organizations and institutes where some distant relatives are even willing to pay travel fare if they are going to vote for certain parties. In other words, political influence has reached everywhere and Bhutanese politicians really seem to have perfected the art of public relation.
As the campaign for primary round is in full swing, so the blame games, mudslinging and accusations have begun. With the clock unruly ticks towards primary round, the dirtiness is bound to get dirtier and accusations and counteraccusations will fly whether it has basis or not. Due to perceived online defamation one party has even registered complaints with Election Commission of Bhutan. Many complaints will follow the suit burdening already burdened commission. Worse, even a judge in dzongkhag court courted controversies by preempting the judgment in land scam. Soon some media and political parties will play on it. Politics is not what politicians do. They make truth into fault and falsehood into bible truth with uncanny cunningness and oratorical skills which they have in abundance. May be this are same reasons why arguably greatest thinker of mankind Aristotle felt that democracy benefits who ruled not who are being ruled.
On 31st May 2013, once-empowered- people- in -five -years will go to polls to exercise their constitutional rights. Will they make the right decisions by voting for the right parties or will they give into politics without a second thought. The 2013 general election will decide whether right decision is made by the public but symptoms will be known by the result of primary round. If people make right decision, country will benefit, if people make the selfish decision, constituency will benefit but if people make the wrong decision politics will benefits. Whether Bhutan will successful democracy or not, Bhutan certainly will have successful politics where definition of the government will be government of few people by fewer people interests of vested interest group.