Amiable, unassuming and genuine is how voters of North-Thimphu describe their Member of Parliament elect, Dechen Wangmo.
What struck many of them was her friendly nature.
Pitched against one of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s prominent female candidates, Lily Wangchuk, Dechen Wangmo, a novice in politics, found herself in untested waters. She had embarked on an uphill task, literally, given that her constituency covered high mountains of Lingzhi, Soe, and long walking distance to places like Naro.
Lily Wangchuk enjoyed some advantage over Dechen Wangmo. She was contesting for the second time and was familiar with the constituents. She was the founder and president of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, and the vice president of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa. The former diplomat, besides the incumbent MP, presented a formidable opponent.
However, when People’s Democratic Party went out after the primary elections, the tables had turned in Dechen Wangmo’s favour. In the primary election result, she came second, after PDP’s Tshering, with 1,211 votes – 77 more votes than DPT’s Lily Wangchuk winning in both the electronic voting machine and the postal ballots.
While her personality helped her connect easily with the voters, she considers support from her family and friends playing a major role in her success. “I wouldn’t have made without their support,” she said.
Fondly known as Omu to her loved ones, the 42-year-old had her own merits over her opponent having worked in international organisations and specialised in public health.
For voters, her performance during the televised debate was one factor that drew her more support, albeit the Nepali terms like Paka and Pura she often used to drive her point home.
“She was calm and articulated her messages clearly,” Sonam Dorji from Dechenchholing said. This could be the reason why she obtained 457 postal ballots against 370 of her opponent. The difference in votes further widened when the EVM votes came in – Dechen Wangmo secured 1,819.
Of the 6,604 registered voters in the constituency, Dechen Wangmo won with 2,276 votes against Lily Wangchuk’s 2,102 in the general election.
Lily Wangchuk was not solely responsible for the loss. Some voters said that the sudden resignation of DPT’s former MP from the constituency also played a part. In the bye-election, PDP’s Tshering won. He went on to win in the primary elections.
Other voters said despite being part of the Thimphu dzongkhag, the most developed dzongkhag, North Thimphu lacked many of the facilities DNT pledged to provide including better health services.
“Villagers in Naro and neighbouring villages have to walk for half a day and drive for more than an hour to get to the nearest Basic Health Unit,” Dorji Tshering from Kabisa said.
Dechen Wangmo said that she was humbled and really moved. “I think it is also an indication that the concerns of DNT are the concerns of the people.”
She said that she had enjoyed the experience in politics because she got to know the community beyond Thimphu throm where she was born and raised. “It was a memorable journey.”
Her father said that she takes great effort to excel in whatever she does. Even as a child, she was guided by her values of charity and empathy. “Her late mother and I have always placed immense confidence in her. I’m proud of her sense of duty towards our Tsawa-Sum,” her father, Pem Tshering said.
She remains committed in creating an enabling environment for women to come forward and build the capacity of women in general. “It has to start early.”
Doing away with the Class X cut off point would benefit a lot of girls who drop out. “If we don’t give them the opportunity they marry, bear children and will be caught up in that vicious cycle,” she said.
The opportunity would eventually come if the capacity and competency of women are built at a young age to be confident and be able to come forward, she said.
She has been an advocate of breastfeeding. DNT has pledged to pay lactating mothers outside the civil service Nu 13,500 a month as an incentive. If a mother has a sick child at home then there is social, economical, and psychological costs.
“That’s why we want to create this enabling environment for women to thrive. Otherwise, we can’t expect women to do anything,” she said adding that it is the ultimate responsibility of the government to create that environment.
Meanwhile, in South-Thimphu constituency it was a shoo-in for the president.
DPT’s Kinley Tshering got less than half the number of votes DNT’s president and candidate Lotay Tshering, 50, obtained in the primary election. They stood 2,816 including 505 postal ballots for DNT, and 1,146 for DPT including the 207 postal ballots.
This gap widened in the general election as expected. Despite securing 832 more votes in the general elections, Kinley Tshering, 40, was battling a difficult mission against the prime minister candidate.
DNT’s president and South-Thimphu candidate, Lotay Tshering won with 3,662 votes against DPT’s Kinley Tshering got 1,978.
The two had not met except for the televised debates. The former manager of Tashi Bank Limited called the prime minister-elect to congratulate.