People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has finalised candidates for the 14 constituencies where there are serving MPs from the opposition party, according to the party’s general secretary Sonam Jatso.

Chhoekhor-Tang (Bumthang), Gangzur-Minjey (Lhuentse), Lamgong-Wangchang (Paro), South Thimphu, Nubi-Tangsibji (Trongsa), and Panbang (Zhemgang) are represented by MPs from the opposition party.

The other constituencies that are occupied by opposition members are Dramedtse-Ngatshang and Kengkhar-Weringla in Mongar, Khar-Yurung, Nanong-Shumar, and Nganglam in Pemagtshel, Bartsham-Shongphu, and Radhi-Sakteng in Trashigang, and Bomdeling-Jamkhar in Trashiyangtse.

Sonam Jatso said the PDP had also finalised candidates for four constituencies that were occupied by its MPs – Mongar (Mongar), Shompangkha (Sarpang), Dogar-Shaba (Paro), and Dewathang-Gomdar (Samdrupjongkhar).

Speaker Jigme Zangpo from Mongar and MP Mingbo Dukpa from Dewathang-Gomdar will not be eligible to contest as they would be above 65 years of age.

The general secretary said Shompakha MP Rinzin Dorji has voluntarily decided not to contest, while Dogar-Shaba MP Kezang Wangmo has plans to go for further studies.

In total, the party has finalised 18 candidates.

Sonam Jatso, however, did not reveal the names of the newly identified candidates.

He said, “Our new candidates have requested not to announce their names till they complete all the formalities of resigning from the organisations they are serving right now. We would like to honour their request and not reveal their names at this time.”

He said that the party would reveal the candidates as soon as the NC election period ends.

Sonam Jatso said the candidates could make a good team of highly qualified and experienced candidates with good work ethic, integrity and personal character.

He added: “We have been fortunate. In every vacant constituency, we have been approached by several strong candidates wishing to join us. It all started since the North Thimphu by-election in 2016.”

Asked if the party will give tickets to all the rest of the serving MPs, Sonam Jatso said that no final decision was made on replacing existing members.

“As far as possible, the party would like our serving members to contest in 2018 elections. However, at the end, it’ll all depend on the electorate,” he said.

In addition to the Rinzin Dorje and Kezang Wangmo, Sonam Jatso said that a few more MPs might decide to not contest this time.

Sonam Jatso said the party president in close consultation with executive committee and other members of the party in the process of assessing the serving MPs, including ministers.

“President and the executive committee will decide if the rest will get party ticket to contest after the ongoing assessment. People are already spreading rumors, including on social media that so and so MPs are getting replaced. It’s speculation,” he said.

He said the party has set winnability as the most important criteria for selecting a candidate.

Qualification and experience, and personal character, he said, are also important for selecting a candidate for his party.

The party, he said, has been working on candidate selection for the last one year.

“As a responsible party, we want to present to Tsawa Sum the best possible candidate in every constituency. The party office, together with executive committee members, has started making all other preparations for the upcoming election campaign,” Sonam Jatso said.

Within the next few months, before the beginning of campaign period, the party will have everything ready, he added.

“As always, we will put the interest of our nation first and conduct our election campaign in the most responsible manner with a positive message of our hopes, dreams and aspirations to make Bhutan one of the finest nations on earth,” Sonam Jatso said.

MB Subba