With all four political parties in full-blown campaign mode, the voters are overwhelmed with promises and pledges. The next five years and beyond, going by the promises, looks brighter.
Parties want to ensure reliable irrigation water for farmers, 24-hour drinking water for urban residents, jobs for the jobless, salary raise and improved value in vehicle import quota even for lower grade civil servants, home ownership and home for the homeless, improved budget to the gewogs and many more.
As expected, the pledges are no different even with four political parties contesting with different “visions”. The pledges or promises are to woo the voters. We can understand that the issues highlighted are what the voters need, their immediate needs at least. It is common to see that with electoral politics, the voter bank will be exposed to the culture of promises. We are not new to this and, to a large extent, voters judge a government by the promises they have kept or failed to keep.
What is new is that Bhutanese voters are not new to promises. They have heard these before. They will also be able to analyse if political parties really mean it or if they are just taking a populist move to woo voters.
But even after a decade of democracy and two round of parliamentary elections, election promises can leave an impact on the Bhutanese voters. For the farmer who is struggling to cultivate his fields, a promise of reliable water could influence him. From the comments voters make both online and offline, some promises tend to be working. There is excitement among some hearing that there will be a salary revision, for instance.
The 12thPlan, which the new government will implement, is estimated to be worth about Nu 336 billion. This is massive. The Plan excludes cost for fulfilling the pledges or promises. Which means there will be need for more money. Our revenue can only cough up enough to meet our recurring expenditure. Where will the money come from is a big question on the minds of the voters. Borrowing comes with strings attached.
As political parties and aspiring candidates tour the villages trying their best to impress the voters with their promises, questions need to be asked. The promises are honey to the ears, as Bhutanese say, but how will they fulfil them. Voters should question and ask hard questions. They should demand for an outline for their plans and promises, for that matter even in writing. They should be able to differentiate what is in the Plan and outside it.
Without clear-cut party ideologies, voters will vote based on what promises sound convincing, if money and influence are out of politics. What then voters have to keep in mind is to note the promises and demand their fulfilment after the party gets into power.