Chencho Dema 

In Punakha, none of the five political parties have put forth a single female candidate.

This pattern is not new; Punakha has not had a single female political candidate since 2008.

As the upcoming election draws near, people are left wondering if female candidates will ever enter the political arena, or if men will continue to dominate the dzongkhag’s political landscape.

With a total of 10 male candidates, the Kabji-Talo and Lingmukha-Toedwang constituency in Punakha has the exclusive representation of men for the upcoming election. Even the oldest parties could not field in female candidates.

Deputy Speaker Tshencho Wangdi of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Sangay Phurba of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, Kinzang Thinley of Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa, Namgyal Dorji of People’s Democratic Party, and Tshering Dorji of Bhutan Tendrel Party are the candidates for the Kabjisa-Talo constituency.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji of DNT, Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang of DTT, Dr Gyambo Sithey of BTP, Tenzin Tshewang of DPT and Namgay Wangchuk of PDP are the candidates for the Lingmukha-Toedwang constituency for the upcoming election.

In 2008, PDP and DPT put forth male candidates for the two constituencies in 2008.

The DPT candidates were Namgay Wangchuk for Lingmukha-Toedwang against Dophu Drukpa and Tshering Penjor for Kabji-Talo constituency against PDP’s Sangay Ngedup the party president then.

In 2013, the number of parties rose to five with the emergence of three new political parties, DNT, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, and Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party. BKP was disqualified due to a lack of candidates in the two constituencies in Gasa.

DNT and DCT could not qualify during the primary round and the battle was against PDP and DPT again.

The DPT candidate from the Lingmukha-Toedwang constituency was Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang who lost to Chhimi Dorji, a former dzongrab of Trongsa.

People of Kabji-Talo constituency voted in favour of PDP’s Dophu Drukpa against Namgay Penjore, the former National Council Chairperson.

The 2018 elections saw four parties: DPT, BKP, PDP, and DNT. DCT deregistered as a party and was not eligible for campaign fund from the state since it did not garner 10 per cent of the popular vote in the last elections.

Tshencho Wangdi of DNT and Kinley Wangchuk of DPT contested in Kabisa-Talo constituency, while Dr Tandi Dorji of Lingmukha-Toedwang constituency won against Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang of DPT.

In Bumthang, political parties have not put forth a female candidate since 2008. However, for the upcoming election, BTP put forth Tshering Lhadon from the Chhumig-Ura constituency.


Constituencies with  female candidates

Aside from Punakha, no female candidates have yet been put out by political parties in Trongsa, Tsirang, and Wangdue.

Twenty of the 47 constituencies are represented by female candidates from the five political parties.

PDP confirmed two female candidates, Dorji Choden from Thrimshing-Kangpar and Lekden Zangmo from Khar-Yurung

BTP has three female candidates – Dorji Wangmo from Kengkhar-Weringla, Ugyen Dem from Khatoed-Laya, and Dechen Lhadon from Chumig-Ura.

DPT has five female candidates – Norbu Wangzom from Jomotshangkha-Martshala, Dechen Lhaden from Gelephu, Chador Wangmo from Drujegang-Tseza, Sonam Chenzom from Khamead-Lunana, and Tshering Choden from Khar-Yurung.

DTT has six female candidates – Sonam Pelzom from Monggar, Susan Lama from Sompangkha-Sarpang, Jangchuk Tshomo from Dokar-Sharpa, Tshoki Lhamo from Menbi-Tsaenkhar, Karma Dema from Panbang, and Dawa Gyelmo from Bji-Katsho-Uesu.

DNT also has seven female candidates –Dasho Dechen Wangmo from North Thimphu, Tshewang Lhamo from Bongo-Chapchha, Yeshey Dema from Khamaed-Lunana, Dorjee Wangmo from Sombaykha, Karma Lhamo from Monggar, Amina Gurung from Tashichhoeling and Namgay Wangmo from Bomdeling-Jamkhar.


Political views

The political parties have contrasting opinions.

DNT general secretary, Phurba, said that candidates are never chosen based on their gender but rather on their likelihood of winning. “For our party, all 47 candidates can be either male or female; there is no gender bias. What matters is the candidate’s potential to win over his or her constituencies.”

The DPT general secretary, Sonam Tashi, said that the party attempted to field female candidates but was unsuccessful. “We were waiting for one female candidate to confirm her candidature for one of the constituencies in Punakha, but that did not come through.”

Media spokesperson for DTT said: “We are of the view that women representation has always been low and have encourage more women to come forward. We tried looking for female candidates but in Punakha, but could now find one.”

The PDP’s general secretary, Kuenga Tashi, stated that the party aimed to field an equal number of male and female candidates, but noted that this was a challenging task.

For the upcoming election, “we had to find 20 new candidates, and the first thing we had in mind was to find female candidates, but it did not work as planned,” he stated.

“We want to clarify that the BTP does not discriminate based on gender when it comes to candidate selection. As a political party, we maintain an open stance and welcome candidates who possess the necessary experience, qualifications, and character to serve effectively. Our selection process is merit-based, and we encourage individuals from all backgrounds to participate,” Dr Gyambo Sithey, the party’s NA candidate.