Politics: Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) President Lily Wangchuk believes that a merger of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) and her party can form a political force that will be strong enough to form the  government next year.

According to Lily Wangchuk, DNT has proposed for a merger more than once. However, she suspects that the proposals were just a “political tactic” to leave behind her party.

However, DNT’s caretaker president Dr Tandi Dorji said: “There will be no mergers as far as DNT is concerned.”

Lily Wangchuk said a merger of the political parties currently outside parliament into a single political entity would create a strong party that could definitely form the next government.

“This also seems to be the aspiration of the people as it will produce a good mix of most competent candidates and will not divide votes between three political parties.”

DCT wants to end the dominance of the two same parties. “However, a merger will never happen as DNT which has been proposing this idea has never been sincere about it in the first place,” Lily Wangchuk said.

The proposal, she said, was first made back in 2013 and that DCT was accordingly advised not to fill up all the constituencies.

“Later we learned they were fully prepared with all their constituencies while we were way behind which worked against us,” she said.

Lily Wangchuk revealed that since 2014 DNT has been again proposing the same. “However, the proposal appears to be a similar political tactic and move (of 2013) which cannot be taken seriously,” she said.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) president Sonam Tobgay said his is a party with strong values and beliefs. “Even in a marriage there is no perfect union, so a merger with another political party is out of the question because we are not here for the political expediency or for the short haul, but for posterity to institutionalise good democratic institutions like political parties,” he said.

A merger would make sense for DCT, as the stakes are particularly higher for the party. The party failed to win 10 percent of the popular vote in 2013. It will be deregistered if the same happens in next year’s elections.

If the party decides to take part in the upcoming elections, it has to do without funds from the state. A party that secures less than 10 percent of the popular vote in the primary round would not be eligible for state funding in the next election.

DCT received only 12,456 votes (5.9 percent) in the last primary elections.

Meanwhile, with just over one year to go before next year’s parliamentary elections begin, the third parties have started to chalk out strategies to secure a berth in parliament.

With limited resources and stringent electoral rules, odds are against the emerging parties. A pressing challenge, parties say, is securing commitments early enough from the candidates.

Most of their former candidates have either resigned from politics or joined the ruling party, and the fight for candidates has only become tougher. Sources said the emerging parties will deploy a strategy to replace the weaker of the current ruling and opposition parties in parliament.

Dr Tandi Dorji said his party members meet every week to take stock of national issues. “Our weekly meetings have enabled us to keep abreast of national events and we have taken stands on some of the critical issues,” he said.

DNT won in two constituencies in 2013. Overall, the party won 36,055 votes (17.5 percent) of the total votes cast in 2013.

The party at the moment is focused on getting the “right candidates” who are committed to serving people selflessly, are well qualified, have experience and above all are good human beings. The president said DNT has built a “Nyamrup team” that the people of Bhutan can have confidence in.

“We aspire to unite all Bhutanese together instead of the division created by the first two parties,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.

He said the PDP government lacks vision and direction in carrying out developmental works. The present government, in DNT’s evaluation has been “indecisive” on several issues such as the erstwhile BOiC, electric cars, slaughter houses, removing government pool vehicles, among other issues.

“They are focused on short term electoral promises rather than on long term national prosperity,” the DNT caretaker president said. The caretaker president said his party will elect a president through a convention.

BKP was disqualified in 2013 because of its failure to produce all 47 candidates. Sonam Tobgay said his party will transcend limits to “make the impossible possible with an emphatic performance” to victory in 2018. He claimed the party has gathered a good set of senior well-experienced and like-minded candidates to form “a highly competent government”.

“This time around, we will not be as accommodating as in the last elections when it comes to situations be it with authorities or adversaries,” Sonam Tobgay said.

“History will be more fair on the why and how BKP was not given an opportunity to engage in the primary round of elections in 2013,” he said. BKP now has “confirmed close to 70 percent” of the candidates, who Sonam Tobgay said will be declared “shortly” one by one as done in the past.

“We are a party that minds our own business and has reached a level where we will easily qualify the primary round in the 2018 elections and win the general round to form the government. Mark my words, there will be a seismic shift in favour of BKP and only god can disallow it to happen,” he said.

Sonam Tobgay said: “hearsay tells that most of them are disenchanted (particularly the civil servants) but only put on a show of appreciation since they are still in power”.

Among others, he said the Economic Stimulus Plan particularly BOiC was a major blunder. He added that the distribution of boleros and power tillers are short term rent seeking gimmicks, and that while the helicopters appear useful, the company will remain in the red. “We must as responsible citizens reckon that the country is trapped in a debt sponge with GDP to debt ratio at 114 percent and a current account deficit of 35 percent,” he said. “We cannot and must not let our economy collapse any further.”

He said the goal of self-reliance still remains far-fetched, unemployment continues rising, and the government has only “clueless remedies”.

Meanwhile, DCT hopes to perform better this time. It has been closely observing the performance of the government, strengthening its presence across the country, identifying experienced and credible candidates, and revisiting its manifesto for the 2018 elections.

Lily Wangchuk said getting good candidates is difficult for all political parties. “It is impossible for any political party to present all 47 competent candidates given our very restrictive policies,” she said. “For the 2018 elections we are working on identifying and presenting more experienced, older and credible candidates.”

Lily Wangchuk said most of the present government’s pledges and activities are short term and is not taking Bhutan any closer to the shared vision of self-reliance, prosperity, harmony and happiness.

DCT awards the government for its performance three points out of 10 on a quantity basis explaining that there is still much that needs to be done quality wise. For instance, Lily Wangchuk said the government has done far too little to create a fair and equitable society and has not been able to reconcile the yawning gap between the rich and the poor.

MB Subba