Although it will face high states, the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) will contest 2018 elections, the party president Lily Wangchuk has said.
The party will not be eligible for campaign fund from the state since it didn’t garner 10 percent of the popular vote in 2013. The party will be deregistered if it fails to meet the 10 percent threshold yet again in 2018.
In an interview with Kuensel, the DCT president said that the party currently is finalising its candidates and reviewing the manifesto. The party is also preparing for its convention where it will discuss and finalise its election strategy.
She said that more people have become informed and DCT is hopeful that the people will use their wisdom in exercising their choice rather than voting based on personal connections, gains or interests. “Given the positive trend in recent years, we are confident of performing better in 2018 elections.”
The party claims that it has been able to retain almost all its members and previous candidates. The number of our registered members, she said, has in fact grown since 2013 “unlike in the case of other parties”.
“We have also been able to strengthen our growing number of youth and women supporters across the country,” Lily Wangchuk said. “Our party has in fact become stronger as an institution and also in terms of diversity and experience.”
Without campaign funds from the state, Lily Wangchuk said that her party might not enjoy a level playing field with other political parties in 2018 elections.
“We also do not have any rich supporters in our party to prevent any conflict of interest. However, that will not deter us since many of our candidates are willing to fund their own campaigns given their deep commitment.”
DCT, she said, would not require much fund, as it will remain ethical in their conduct and practice. She said the party would compete on ideas rather than other factors.
She said that the party hopes to be able to connect with people with its ideas and approach of taking Bhutan closer to the vision of benevolent monarchs rather than through dirty politics.
One factor that affected DCT’s performance in the last election, she said, was the “negative and sexiest campaigning” and false rumours created about DCT by other parties. “We became the main target for all political parties in the primary elections given our increasing popularity in a short period of time.”
Lily Wangchuk said that despite the difficulties of being a new party headed by a woman president, DCT carried out “positive campaigning” highlighting simply its own manifesto and succeeded in garnering more than 12,000 votes with only two weeks of campaign “without bribery, false promises and without targeting any political party”.
She described the registration of her party and attracting substantial support, particularly from people of humble background, women and youth in only three months as a huge achievement in 2013.
“Having gained much experience and wisdom from the last election, the future elections will only get easier and DCT will definitely contest in 2018 elections with greater experience, wisdom and better strategies,” the DCT president said.
Lily Wangchuk didn’t deny the possibility of a merger with other political parties.
She said two registered political parties have approached her in the past to join them and have also proposed merging with their party. “Whether that will happen or not will be a joint decision that we as a party will make after our party convention later this year,” she said.
As a party outside the parliament, she said its role and engagement with people over the last four years has been limited due to some restrictive policies and in the absence of state funding. “However, in our own small way, we have kept ourselves abreast of developments, engaged with communities and on issues of significant importance we have shared our concerns, engaged in constructive criticism and even made recommendations.”
While efforts are underway to form new parties, the DCT president said that Bhutan with a small population could do with a few strong parties with competent candidates rather than an increasing number of political parties during each election.
“While democracy is all about diversity and more choices, I also believe that large number of political parties would mean greater fragmentation of the society into smaller groups which may not be desirable for our country in the long run,” she said. “With greater understanding about each other, I believe we could settle down for fewer, dynamic political groups.”