The party says its support base is intact
The Druk Phuensum Tsogpa (DPT) is today the smallest political party in terms of membership. Despite smallness of size and most of its members resigning, the party claims that its support base across the country has remained largely unchanged.
The party’s general secretary, Ugyen Dorji, said it is only on paper that DPT is one of the smallest political parties. The party’s membership has fallen to just about 80 members today from 799 in 2013.
He said: “We still believe that our party is one of the biggest in terms of support base. We are very optimistic that DPT will be one of the parties to reach the general round in 2018 elections.
He said that eventually, what wins an election is the number of votes, not the number of registered members on paper. “One of the reasons for having a small number of registered members is that we have not initiated a membership drive since the 2013 elections.”
The party received 44.52 percent of the popular votes in the 2013 primaries. Its share of votes in the general election increased to 45 percent.
If DPT’s support base remains intact, as claimed by the party, or decreases only by a slim margin, observers say the party could make it past the primary round, meaning that DPT will regain its position either as ruling party or Opposition.
“We have the reasons to believe that those voters (who voted for DPT in 2013) have not weaned their support for our party over the years,” Ugyen Dorji said.
The entry of new parties could also strengthen the chances of the two oldest parties – DPT and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – according to observers. For the two established parties, it could be a case of the more the merrier.
Observers think the entry of more new parties will only split the share of undecided and independent voters. On the other hand, it would be difficult to sway in large numbers the people who have traditionally voted for PDP and DPT.
However, despite the general secretary’s claim that DPT will make it to the general round, its defeat to PDP in the North Thimphu by-election in December 2016 gives DPT leaders reasons to worry. Ahead of the by-election, party officials had said the constituency was traditionally a DPT stronghold.
If there is one reason for DPT to still remain hopeful, it can treat the North Thimphu by-election as an isolated case. The DPT government had left the constituency without a representative for most of its tenure as its MP.
The party was able to win the by-election in Nanong-Shumar constituency of Pemagatshel in November 2013.
Ugyen Dorji said that his party is also not worried with third parties becoming more active both on social media and other platforms. “Every party would have its own priority and accordingly it devises strategies to prepare for the elections,” he said.
The secretary general said that it makes perfect sense for third political parties to set their priorities on increasing their membership and making themselves visible though active social media presence, as they don’t have access to public fora like the government and the opposition parties.
Ugyen Dorji said that they are working to strengthen the party in preparation of 2018 elections. He said that the party does not foresee any challenges in getting good candidates. “We already have a pool of competent and vastly experienced candidates.”
He, however, said they are also mindful of the fact that they would need suitable replacements for few of their senior members who would ineligible to contest by age.
Ugyen Dorji acknowledged that one of the short falls of his party has been that it “may have failed to keep in constant touch” with its support base, which the party thinks needs to be revived. “We need to reconnect with our support base.”
He said that unlike other political parties, DPT has the twin responsibilities of providing a responsible and dignified opposition to the government as well as to maintain the health and strength of the party. Both the roles, he said, are equally important for the party.
DPT says it is “wholeheartedly committed” to rendering the responsibilities expected of the party as the Opposition till the last hour of their tenure, while at the same time, taking appropriate and adequate measures to strengthen their party.