The excitement of politicking is palpable, at least for those who are deeply involved in it. Although the official campaign period is still months away, the electoral process is unfolding, rapidly and robustly.  The ruling government will dissolve only toward the end of October this year.

New political parties are currently on familiarisation (FAM) tours to introduce their party to the voters while some of the established parties are engaged in consultation tours to connect with the people and present new candidates. Gone are the days when our society was shielded away from open political campaigning or hesitated to declare political ambitions. Political parties are racing to confirm the 47 candidates and introduce them to “overwhelming” audiences.

The election rules are strict. It allows parties to introduce themselves, their missions and visions. Making promises and pledges is prohibited until the election commission announces the campaign period. Meanwhile political parties, it seems, are getting impatient. The social media is inundated by party activities and images from the FAM or consultation tours. At this stage, the potential voters rely on social media to keep track of the political landscape.

The parties know well how to keep themselves seen and heard. From catch party theme songs to politicians dancing and singing with attendees at meetings, and to images of politicians traversing the country on the back of bolero pick-up trucks and excavators, voters are well informed about the party’s endeavours.

Social media is a good way to engage with voters, especially when open campaigns are restricted. How effectively they inform and appeal to the public depends on their adeptness with social media platforms, and there are countless groups spread across all of them. 

With five political parties vying for the 2024 National Assembly elections, voters will find themselves immersed in campaigns to the extent that some may already be feeling the “campaign fatigue. If the FAM tours coincided with the plantation season, the campaign period will be during the harvest season.  It is not so easy for farmers in remote areas to attend party meetings. With five parties and their coordinators calling for meetings, the average voters could get impatient or lose the excitement.

For the Bhutanese electorate, the 2024 Assembly elections provide choices. Even when they are confused with the names of the parties, they are willing to come and listen. Despite the inconveniences, attending FAM or consultation meetings are important. It is said that our voters are more mature now and they should be able to judge whom to vote for.

However, this can happen when parties refrain from resorting to coordinators or the so-called tshogpas to influence the average voter. There appears to be a competition among parties to win over the most influential villagers. The party with the most resources may secure the most influential villagers as their coordinator, but it is against basic democratic principles. It’s still early stages in the 2024 parliamentary elections, it’s not too late for the authorities to be vigilant. The responsibility also lies with the voters to report if coordinators join a party based on remunerations rather than ideologies

When aspiring to be the government, political parties should adhere to the election rules. There is a thin line between a FAM tour or consultation meeting and campaigning. Parties know well the dos and don’ts and should be mindful of them throughout this electoral journey.