Political parties will kick start their campaign for the primary round of the National Assembly elections today although the official campaign period started yesterday.

Political parties have 21 days, including today, to campaign before the campaign period closes at 9am of September 13. Although party presidents have already toured most of the dzongkhags during their familiarisation tour, the campaign tours would involve explaining the manifesto to the electorate.

Two of the four political parties securing the highest number and the next highest number of total valid votes cast in the primary throughout the 20 dzongkhags will go to the general election. This makes the dzongkhags with a high population significant in the primary.

The presidents will attend two rounds of televised presidential debates on August 26 and September 2. The first presidential debate will be held on the party’s ideology while the second will be on their manifesto.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) general secretary Phurba said that the party’s strategy was to reach out to a maximum number of people through various means and that visiting all 20 dzongkhags is not a qualifier. “Reaching out to dzongkhags with a high voter population is one of the options but they may not necessarily be in rural places only,” he said.

DNT has plans to reach out to all sections of the population through various means including social media. The general secretary said that the party would reach out to as many people as possible although it may not be possible for party president Lotay Tshering to tour all the dzongkhags.

DNT will offiaicially start its campaign with the launch of its manifesto at the department of youth and sports hall and then move to Punakha.

“We are launching it in front of youth since they are synonymous to hope and the future of Bhutan which is indicative of DNT,” he said. According to the plans, Lotay Tshering will last tour Gasa before returning to Thimphu for the presidential debate.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) general secretary Jigme Zangpo said all candidates have been introduced to their constituencies. He said that while most of candidates are in the field about 10 would leave the capital after the Election Commission of Bhutan formally accepts the party’s letter of intent.

“We have a short period of time. We are hardly getting 20 days to campaign for the primary,” Jigme Zangpo said, adding that the party would conduct itself as per the directions of the ECB.

The PDP general secretary said that although there isn’t adequate time for the presidents to reach every dzongkhag, the presidential debates and demkhong common forums would give the electorate good opportunities to make an informed choice.

The PDP president, he said, would possibly make visits to selective dzongkhags due to time constraints. The party will today give continuity to its tradition of launching the election campaign and manifesto from Punakha dzong.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) will start its campaign today from Paro’s Naja gewog without its manifesto. “We will soon launch the manifesto although we did not as such launch our manifesto in the previous election,” said the party’s spokesperson Dorji Wangdi.

He said that although all the dzongkhags are equally important, the party president Pema Gyamtsho would tour dzongkhags on a priority basis. “There has to be equity. The president’s recent visits will suffice in some of the dzongkhags.”

The DPT president is scheduled to visit Haa tomorrow as part of the presidential tour and return to Thimphu for the presidential debate. The president however, may not visit Trashigang, the biggest dzongkhag in terms of the electorate size since he visited the dzongkhag earlier as opposition leader, according to a party official.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) vice president Sonam Tobgay said that his party president has covered most dzongkhags in the familiarisation tour and that the remaining ones will be covered soon enough prior to the primary round.

No dzongkhags, he said, would be left out so that no one is left behind. “Our president has tirelessly visited number of dzongkhags in her familiarisation tour and will continue to cover all 20 dzongkhags.”

The party would start its campaign from Thimphu today, party officials said.

The candidates will be attending a common forum and public debate organised by BBS and ECB from August 27. The last public debate on BBS will feature PDP president Tshering Tobgay from Haa’s Sombakha constituency and DPT president Pema Gyamtsho from Chhokor-Tang of Bumthang.

While PDP president Tshering Tobgay toured all the dzongkhags as prime minister, DPT president Pema Gyamtsho visited some dzongkhags as opposition leader.

MB Subba