BTP banks on its unique approaches

Dechen Dolkar 

With only three days remaining before the poll day, Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), Pema Chewang is ensuring that all their pledges are effectively communicated to the voters.

Within less than a month of the campaign period, the party president covered eastern, southern and some parts of western and central regions. The party has covered Thimphu, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar, Chhukha, Pemagatshel, Samtse and Sarpang.

As Samtse has the highest number of registered voters, all political parties have visited the dzongkhag and conducted their campaigns making promises. The BTP was the last party to campaign in Samste.

The President said that their initial plan was to cover every gewog during the campaign period but given the limited time, they had to prioritise and strategise the campaign.

“We haven’t been able to cover some parts of western and central regions but our candidates have been representing the party well,” the president said.

BTP President Pema Tshewang, 56, said that there is no specific reason to end their campaign at Sarpang. “It was as per our campaign schedule set.”

When asked about what makes the BTP the ideal choice for voters, he said that BTP’s approach is quite unique.

The president said that they have received overwhelming support from the people during the campaign reflecting that BTP, as a new and the last party to get registered, has been able to live up to the expectations of our people. “We have done an excellent job at providing a better choice to the people.”

The BTP president started his campaign on November 7 from South-Thimphu constituency. He is in Sarpang today wrapping up the campaigning.

Pema Chewang said that they envision a prosperous Bhutan by empowering citizens to unleash their full potential and contribute to national development. this is one of the critical components of their manifesto, the focus is on enhancing household income.

“Our call for efficient public service delivery or Mimang zhabto became quite popular, as many have experienced difficulty and disappointment in availing public services,” the president said.

He also said that BTP has the right mix of candidates with the experience, expertise and dedication to serve the King, country and people.

He said that BTP may be a new party, but they feel the pulse of the nation. With a thorough understanding of the ground realities and sound knowledge backed by innovation and technology, they will strive to drive our country towards a high-income nation, given the mandate.

“Our manifesto is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound,” said the President.

BPT mentioned that they are confident about the victory on the poll day.

Pema Chewang said that they are confident, but, in the end, it is the will of our people that will decide. “We will respect that, whatever the results may be. If we lose, it’s not the end. We will come back stronger.”

Meanwhile, political observers and voters mentioned that all the political parties’ pledges are the same. Voters have to sacrifice their work to attend every party presidential campaign while some voters were not able to attend the campaign due to their farm work.

It was learnt that political parties are comparing how many crowds they could gather during the campaign.

Pema Chewang said, “Democracy is an evolving process and especially in our context, it’s relatively new. While every election is a learning process, both for the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and parties, they would like to applaud the ECB for their efforts to ensure free and fair elections.”

However, he said that there are some challenges in the electoral process and they intend to share with ECB to further improve the electoral process.

Pema Chewang will contest from Kanglung-Samkhar-Udzorong constituency from Trashigang. He was the Secretary of the National Land Commission (NLC) before he resigned to join politics.

BTP has three women candidates.

DNT confident to prevail

Thukten Zangpo

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) President, Dr Lotay Tshering, who concludes his campaign in Rangjung, Trashigang today, is confident of a second term in office.

“Wherever I go, I do feel I am talking to the 700,000 Bhutanese,” Dr Lotay Tshering, who began his campaign from Simtokha, Thimphu.

He emphasised the sanctity of the locations, saying, “The presidential campaign between two holy places, DNT cannot go wrong.”

Throughout the campaign, DNT “extensively covered” various constituencies and dzongkhags, with the exception of Mongar and Lhuentse.  “I do not have specific party pledges, but only Bhutan in my mind,” said Dr Lotay, underlining the ongoing country’s reforms.

He said that without careful consideration, voters might make erroneous choices in selecting the government.

Dr Lotay Tshering highlighted significant aspects of the country’s present and future, including the reform measures such as the reduction of ministries from 10 to nine, the merging and discontinuation of 18 departments and agencies, the management of stray dogs, and the ambitious one million fruit trees project.

He also touched upon the National Digital Identity project, envisioning its enhancement by providing licenses and digital passports for biometrics to facilitate travel to countries like Australia or Canada.

Asked about why people should vote for DNT, Dr Lotay said that the party does not rely on strategies to win voters. Instead, he considers the expectations of the people and the kind of country they envision for their children.

“The country is not built overnight; it is upon the cumulative service of the service providers, the government,” he said, emphasising the collective efforts of political parties, irrespective of their behaviour, to serve the country’s interests and avoid divisive politics.

Discussing the campaign, Dr Lotay Tshering said that there is a need for improvement. He said that party leaders or representatives could engage in discussions based on themes such as the economy, health, driglam namzha, and technology, among others. These discussions could be telecasted live across the country, ensuring inclusivity for rural and remote areas.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) pledges to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030 and prevent deaths from stomach cancer. They commit to introducing advanced medical services such as liver transplants, super specialty fertility services, open heart surgeries, and other surgery services.

The party pledges to establish dedicated hospitals for ear, nose, and throat (ENT) treatments, cancer care, and mental health, while also ensuring each gewog has a 10-bed hospital to reduce waiting times.

DNT promises to increase stipends for feeding programs and improve student diets based on World Food Programme recommendations. They aim to bridge the digital divide in schools.

DNT commits to increasing GDP per capita and generating additional hydropower and solar power. They pledge to attract tourists, boost private sector investment, and raise household incomes significantly. The party also pledges to provide easy access to credit and with collateral, and reduce interest rates for loans in agro-products, minerals, forest products, handicrafts, textiles, among others also by 2 -3 percent, supporting economic projects for each household.

The party targets annual growth and plans to increase high-value agriculture and livestock production. The party promises chain-linked fences on farmland, allowing landowners to determine land use in challenging areas, and resolving all remaining water problems.

DNT pledges to initiate carbon market access and credit mechanisms, investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable development. They commit to projects contributing to carbon sequestration.

DNT vows to base course all roads, blacktop roads to major settlements, and resurface all previously blacktopped roads.

DPT president eyes primary victory

Thinley Namgay

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) president, Dorji Wangdi, is set to conclude his party campaign for the primary election by meeting the people of Yumdang, Marangduet, Changarzam, Ribati, Tungkudemba, and Sonamthang in Zhemgang today.

Zhemgang holds special significance for him as the dzongkhag is his hometown, and it is from the dzongphag’s Panbang Constituency that he has emerged victorious in all three National Assembly Elections so far.

Dorji Wangdi boasts the best track record among the three governments to date, adding that DPT’s manifesto and pledges are most aligned with the goals of strengthening the economy and nation-building.

Furthermore, he emphasised that DPT distinguished itself as the cleanest political party in the country, standing on the merits of performance and service to the people rather than monetary power.

According to him, DPT houses the most experienced minds in governance.

Having already reached out to the people of around 36 constituencies in 15 dzongkhags as of yesterday, Dorji Wangdi commenced the campaign in Punakha on November 9.

On November 24, he engaged with the citizens of Samtse, which he considers crucial due to the largest electorate base.

While acknowledging that time constraints prevented him from visiting all dzongkhags and constituencies, Dorji Wangdi expressed commitment to visit and engage the people of those places in the general round.

He described the party campaign as an adventure and a valuable learning experience that provided opportunities to explore new places and meet new faces.

Reflecting on the campaign, Dorji Wangdi noted varied moods among the people, attributing this to factors such as the presence of more parties, a broader spectrum of pledges, higher skepticism about the pledges of certain parties, and mixed impressions about demeanors in public debates.

Nevertheless, he remained confident that people would vote for DPT, stating: “I have only plan A, that is to win the election.”

Dorji Wangdi described DPT as the best party for the people of Bhutan, assuring the nation of greater economic advancement, higher national unity, peace and harmony, and increased equal opportunities for all.

He expressed satisfaction with the campaign process set by the Election Commission of Bhutan but suggested room for improvement in the format of the Presidential debate and the timing, coordination, and arrangements of common forums, and dzongkhag tours of party presidents.

Many people lauded Dorji Wangdi for refraining from making negative remarks about other political parties during the campaign. He has so far primarily stressed economic recovery through the development of hydropower stations, ICT, improved roads, health facilities, and markets for agricultural produce.

The morale of DPT and its supporters received a boost from Vice President Ugyen Wangdi during the Vice Presidents’ debate in Thimphu on November 23.

Many feel that Ugyen Wangdi demonstrated seasoned political skills, expressing the party’s vision with confidence and clarity.

DTT sure of a breakthrough

Lhakpa Quendren

After wrapping up its “Sunomics” campaign in Lhamoizingkha, Dagana yesterday, the Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) expressed optimism about its fate on November 30.

DTT President Kinga Tshering said the campaign witnessed “roaring attendance” at every venue, except for a few instances where the campaign coincided with local festivals and harvest time.

“The show of support from people during this campaign, we called “Sunomics”, was encouraging,” he said.

When asked about their confidence in winning this election, the president said, “The question of loss doesn’t arise; otherwise, we would never realise the process and the progress we have made so far.”

Reflecting the sentiments of the majority of the Bhutanese electorate, the party said there appears a challenge in the ease of casting votes.

“Although we believe the election commission would have exercised sound judgment in the decision to lift some of the earlier provisions that eased people’s participation,” Kinga Tshering said.

DTT has covered a dozen dzongkhags and more than doubled the number of constituencies. Lhamoizingkha is among the constituencies where the party found it necessary to visit more than once.

Some dzongkhags and constituencies, which the party extensively covered more than twice during the familiarisation tour and consultation, were spared to prioritise others in need of its presence.

“Although we wished to cover all dzongkhags and more constituencies, time would not permit so,” Kinga Tshering said.

DTT distinguishes itself as the ideal choice for voters due to its commitment to helping people and the country actually begin earning and making economic progress, rather than the planned programmes in the 13th Plan and promising usual fixes to the present circumstances.

Sunomics promises

Sunomics is a comprehensive approach with clearly defined factors, targets, and parameters that are easily assessable and monitorable. It is backed by a dedicated team known as Thuendrel Pazzaps or the Economic Warriors.

If elected to form the government, DTT aims to achieve a Gross Domestic Product of USD 10 billion in the next 10 years, with an annual real growth rate of 10 percent, guided by its economic philosophy of Sunomics.

The party pledges to support policies and create favourable conditions for economic growth, foster thriving businesses, and encourage a major role for the private sector in the nation’s economic transformation.

The pledges include establishing an Economic Emergency Committee to clear projects, which are deemed urgent for the revival of the nation’s economy pending changes in rules and regulations.

DTT pledges to adopt a policy of “Allow first and regulate later” by removing one regulation clause daily for the initial 108 days and minimizing rules.

DTT’s famous pledge is to transform Lhengye Dhensa into Zhabto Dhensa, breaking policy and regulatory silos to establish a One-Stop Shop. Their commitment to “We (government) pay if we delay” aims to meet MEET standards.

The health pledges focus on “Take care of your health, while you take care of your wealth”. The goal is to provide free basic healthcare services at every doorstep, with additional options for those willing to pay through private and international participation.

The party pledges to prioritize “Nation First, Youth Foremost,” by ensuring support throughout the entire life cycle of Phuentshok Deyzhi, where the journey to Australia should begin with skills that are in demand anywhere.

One of the pledges is to preserve the environment, not just for a future generation that might not be there at all, but to extract resources through sustainable processes and source over USD 1 billion in green financing.

To preserve the environment, the party pledges to extract resources through sustainable processes and source over USD 1 billion in green financing, considering the uncertainty about the existence of a future generation.

The pledges include the commitment to capitalise on the Gross National Happiness (GNH) brand through the equivalent of a global IPO and establish a GNH stock index.

PDP confident to return 

KP Sharma

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), one of the two oldest parties, asserts that its track record and widespread support from the public have instilled confidence in winning the upcoming primary round election.

With a vision of “for a better Druk Yul – The promise, we will deliver,” PDP initiated its campaign from Punakha and will conclude in Trashigang today, ensuring coverage of all 20 dzongkhags and 47 constituencies.

The party is “leaving no stone unturned” in its efforts to turn the result in its favour.

“The overwhelming support isn’t just a show of solidarity; it’s a resounding endorsement of our policies, emphasising inclusivity, sustainable growth, and unity, which align with the collective dreams we hold for our beloved nation,” the party stated.

PDP stated that its policies are not mere promises but actionable steps toward a more equitable and prosperous future.

“We prioritise inclusive growth, sustainable development, and social harmony, ensuring that every citizen, irrespective of their background, has an equal stake in the progress of our nation.”

The party attributes its commendable track record and commitment as factors making PDP the “natural choice” for voters aspiring to a brighter future for Bhutan. The experience and knowledge possessed by both candidates and the entire team further contribute to PDP’s belief in deserving victory in the election, according to the party.

The party comprises a diverse lineup of candidates, including a former prime minister, former ministers, a former government secretary, former dzongdags, directors and director generals, CEOs of corporations and companies, businesses and entrepreneurs, senior civil servants, a former program officer and international non-government organisation employee, teachers, and a medical armed forces doctor.

The party stated that it reached every corner of the country, ensuring that the voices, needs and dreams of all the communities are considered and taken into account in the formulation of policies and engagements. “This comprehensive coverage reflects our dedication to representing and addressing the concerns of every Bhutanese citizen, regardless of location or accessibility challenges.”

PDP is confident that the interactions, enthusiasm, and meaningful conversations with people from diverse backgrounds have reaffirmed the party’s commitment to addressing the interests and aspirations of every Bhutanese citizen.

The party is optimistic about winning the election based on its vision, which “takes into account the hopes and needs of every Bhutanese”.

When asked about the party’s reaction if incase it is ejected in the primary round, PDP stated that democracy places the voices of the people as the foremost priority and the party wholeheartedly honours and respects the principle.

“Should the election yield an unexpected result, our unwavering dedication to serving Bhutan and its people remains steadfast, our commitment to the nation’s welfare extends far beyond electoral outcomes.”

 The party stated that it was committed to progressing the country and working tirelessly for its betterment, regardless of the outcome of the election.

Asked about its feedback on the electoral process so far, PDP stated that it upholds the highest standards, fostering a fair and democratic process.

The party stated that although these procedures have established a strong foundation, continuous enhancement is essential for fostering an even more robust and transparent system. “We hold the highest confidence in the Election Commission of Bhutan and its meticulously designed procedures.”

PDP will conclude its campaign in Trashigang, having covered all constituencies citing the “belief that every district and constituency, regardless of size deserves respect and attention. The focus is on ensuring the active involvement of everyone in making the country better and more united”.

“We truly value every part of Bhutan equally, and this decision shows how much every place means to us in the PDP,” the party said.

PDP stated that the careful campaign planning for the campaign led it to Trashigang, ensuring comprehensive coverage even in the challenging locations.

Among the 47 candidates, PDP has included three female candidates in this election.