A pre -electoral coalition among political parties and consultation on long-term strategies could support the democratic process

Politics: Coalition may be considered a sensitive term in Bhutan’s party politics, but it’s meaning is much broader than forming a coalition government alone.

A half day seminar on “political parties finding solutions together – as Bhutanese first,” yesterday in Thimphu saw the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD) sharing Denmark’s experience in having a coalition government and the advantages of forming a coalition especially before the elections.

Former leader of the Conservative People’s Party and former parliament member Lars Barfoed shared with representatives from the five political parties and civil society organizations that political coalition is not only about government coalition.

“Coalition is also about building coalition on certain issues during elections,” he said. “Coalition can create more stability and a better way of having a long term strategy.”

The objective of the seminar, election commission officials said was to bring political parties together as Bhutanese first to find solutions, irrespective of their political differences.

Former Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the definition of a party means that groups are formed, which then means that there would be differences.

“The weakness of a democracy is the short term interests- you want to appear popular, be visible and most of our discussions are done after a decision is made,” he said. “Pre-consultation is something we need to capitalize on; there is a need for organization and this would mean about being Bhutanese first, not parties.”

Deputy mayor of Hillerød municipality, North of Copenhagen, Kristen Maria Meyer Jensen said that coalition before election is a technical form of coalition that is done to avoid loss of votes.

Since 1982 -2015, DIPD’s director Bjørn Førd said that all governments have been a coalition of political parties in Denmark.  “There is a sea of competition, a sea of cooperation because they have to respond to the need of the people,” he said.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa President Dr Tandi Dorji said a pre-electoral coalition would have allowed all parties to work in consultation. He said there is a need for all parties to consult when long-term strategies are formed for the country.

“If we had done that, the education city would not have been closed and we should not be talking about BOiC today,” he said.

In the last election, he said that Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa was accused of coalition even though no laws were broken.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that in Bhutan, political parties are an extension of the monarchy, not in terms of power and control but in terms of ensuring the wellbeing of the people.

“They are committed to ensure a collective wellbeing and it’s necessary that the parties work together for a common good,” he said adding that the issue of a coalition may have arose because political parties were initially not formed on principles but because a decision to transition into a democracy was made.

Sonam Pelden