The by-election in the constituency will be held on November 4

Politics: The North Thimphu by-election will come into the national political spotlight in November.

Ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is leaving no stone unturned to make inroads in the capital, which is considered a Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) stronghold. The opposition is determined to retain the seat.

DPT has pitted 26-year-old former private employee Kessang Wangmo, while former corporate employee Tshering, 33, is the PDP candidate. Party leaders have thrown their weight behind their respective candidates.

A number of factors make this election “very important” for both PDP and DPT although it doesn’t affect governance. Some within PDP believe the out come of the by-election will have some impact not only at the constituency level but also at the national level in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

If DPT loses this seat, observers say, that would mean that its support base has declined.

“It is a good opportunity for us to gain people’s support in the capital. People from all parts of Bhutan live here,” PDP secretary general Sonam Jatsho said. If PDP wins, he said it would be easier for the party to be re-elected in the constituency in the next general election.

The party believes its chance to win one more seat has improved this time. DPT has 14 MPs not including the North Thimphu constituency. PDP has 32 MPs.

However, DPT says its support base is intact despite the resignation of Kinga Tshering, who paved the way for this by-election.

“Support for our party has not declined. We are traditionally strong in North Thimphu,” DPT secretary general Ugyen Dorji said. “We are confident to retain the seat.”

The constituency consists of the north thromde, and the four gewogs of Kawang, Lingzhi, Naro and Soe.

Kessang Wangmo’s urban priorities are water, youth employment, local area plans, building permits, roads and traffic. Her rural plans are farm roads, electricity, dzong construction, timber and temporary constructions.

Among other pledges, Tshering’s priorities are bridges, safe drinking water supply, better drainage systems and mule tracks. PDP also wants to provide a 50 percent subsidy on helicopter services for the people of Soe, Lingzhi and Naro gewogs.

The DPT secretary general said the outcome of this election is “very important” for his party to remain as a strong opposition. However, he does not agree that the outcome of the election will have any impact on national politics.

“Voters will go for the people of their choice. It will not affect the outcome of the 2018 elections,” he said.

DPT is of belief that its developmental contribution in the constituency and at the national level inspires people to vote for the party. The party believes that it has contributed to the country as Opposition also.

“People are aware of our contribution while we were in the government,” the DPT secretary general said.

However, the PDP secretary general said the people have praised the government’s performance in the constituency even though it was represented by a DPT MP. “Even without a PDP MP, the people of North Thimphu have benefited a lot in terms of development,” he said.

Sonam Jatsho said Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden have been personally involved in building roads and bridges in the constituency.

Kinga Tshering’s resignation is one of the issues the ruling party can capitalise on. Former foreign minister Ugyen Tshering from North Thimphu also did not represent the constituency for the full five-year term due to his poor health.

“Many people told us that they are not happy with the resignation of Kinga Tshering,” Sonam Jatsho said. However, DPT says Kinga Tshering’s decision to resign for study will benefit the country.

Ugyen Dorji said the resignation will not deter the party’s supporters as “they know under what circumstances he resigned”. Ugyen Dorji said Kinga Tshering resigned as Parliament could not grant him study leave.

Kinga Tshering was elected despite the constituency being left without representation for most his predecessor Ugyen Tshering’s tenure. The former foreign minister did not resign although he was not actively involved in politics.

The party won the Nanong-Shumar constituency when its former party president Jigmi Y Thinley resigned.

Common forums started on October 20 although the election campaign officially began from October 14. The by-election in the North Thimphu constituency will be held on November 4.

While DPT had over 100 members in 2013, it has only four, according to a recent record with Election Commission of Bhutan. PDP has six members today while there were over 60 in 2013.

Kessang Wangmo said she has been receiving positive feedback from voters and is confident to win. She hopes to represent youth and women issues in Parliament if she is elected.

“It is also our government policy to encourage women participation in politics,” she said.

DPT’s reasons for a possible win in the by-election are the “unchanged support base”, the “dynamic candidate” and good performance as ruling party and as opposition.

The PDP secretary general said Kinga Tshering’s resignation and “positive feedbacks” puts them in a strong position to win the election.

The “long list” of candidates it has received also indicates that the party can win, he said. “However, you never know in an election,” he concluded.

Speaking to media persons yesterday, Lyonchoen said the people of North Thimphu were let down twice. He said Kinga Tshering’s resignation was a “breach of contract with the people”.

Lyonchoen said DPT didn’t provide alternatives even though Ugyen Tshering was ill. No developmental needs were addressed due to the absence of MPs in the constituency.

MB Subba