The people of Bhutan are likely to have more political parties to choose from in the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2018. However, entry of new parties could hurt the chances of the three existing parties that are outside Parliament.

Druk Gaki Tshogpa, a party in the making, is in the final stages of drafting its charter. It says it will soon apply for registration with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

For the two established parties – Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – it will be a case of more the merrier. A political observer said entry of more new parties will only spilt the share of undecided and independent voters while it would be difficult to sway the people who have traditionally voted for PDP and DPT.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s general secretary Tenzin Lekphel said: “I think they must have been inspired and motivated by the way the existing political parties have performed,” he said. “I think the new party will benefit. Therefore, we would like to welcome the party.”

He said that one good thing about the Bhutanese democracy is that a party cannot be formed easily. “There are election laws and rules that require and demand certain criteria to be fulfilled for them to get registered with the ECB,” he said.

A member of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) who did not want to be named said it is difficult to form a “credible political party” and that emergence of more parties could weaken the position of the existing parties outside parliament. “We have a small population and not many are interested to join politics,” he said.

However, one of the founders of Druk Gaki Tshogpa, Chheku Dukpa, is hopeful that he will be able to form a strong party and he is “not worried” about the dearth of candidates. “We would like to register the party soon. We would like to identify a suitable party president,” he said.
He said new parties should emerge. “We are not concerned about getting good candidates,” he said.

He said the party is also not concerned about financial resources and thinks that in the past two elections the parties have overspent. “Our strength will be our unique ideas and determination. The notion of having to gather enormous financial resources is not bothering us at this moment,” he said.

In an earlier recent interview Lily Wangchuk,  DCT’s president, said a merger of the new parties would form a political force that will be strong enough to form the government next year. But the idea received lukewarm response due to ideological differences among the parties.

Failure to garner a minimum of 10 percent of the total valid votes cast in a primary will make the party ineligible for state funding in the next elections. In 2013, DCT and DNT fought the primary but only the latter met the 10 percent threshold.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) was disqualified just before the primaries. Observers say that it would have been difficult for either of the three new parties to meet the 10 percent threshold.

A political party can accept voluntary contributions, financial or in kind, made by any of its registered members provided the total value of such contributions does not exceed Nu 500,000. However, a member of political party said contributions from members are not adequate and only a few are willing to contribute.

The new party is confident that it will come up fairly strong to compete with any other parties.

Chheku Dukpa claims that there are already many people coming forward to associate with their party. “We would like to have a very good party president.”

MB Subba