Groups have been formed on social media platforms and heated exchanges have already begun after the Election Commission of Bhutan called the bye-election for Mongar constituency following the resignation of its Member of Parliament and former home minister Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen.

Former Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) candidate from Tsakaling gewog, Karma Lhamo was declared as Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) new candidate from the constituency on May 19.

Most of the voters in the five gewogs of Tsakaling, Tsamang, Chali, Mongar and Drepong in the constituency are aware about her move to DNT. Voters, mainly those who have supported Karma Lhamo as a DPT candidate, are debating whether to stick with their party or still continue supporting the individual candidate.

Karma Lhamo, as a DPT candidate, lost twice in the 2013 and 2018 elections after she was elected in 2008.

Talks about the election among constituents in the group chats and small gatherings are mostly in favour of the ruling MP. Calling bangzoed (treasury) is in the hands of government voters who believe that an MP in ruling has better chances of fulfilling

Having a good personal rapport with the people may be her second advantage, according to some voters.

“Switching party could be Karma Lhamo’s advantage as both DPT and DNT supporters are discussing to vote for her and make her win this time,” former DPT gewog coordinator of Tsamang gewog, Yeshi Thinley said.

Tsamang is one of the gewogs with a large DPT base according to the last election record. Karma Lhamo won the last election from Tsamang, Tsakaling and Chali gewog and lost in Mongar and Drepong gewogs.

A voter from Drepong, Gyeltshen said some people he talked to are in favour of the ruling party candidate for difference in parliament and Karma Lhamo has the upper hand this time.

It is learned that Karma Lhamo who is expected to reach her constituency this Monday had contacted in advance some of her former and DNT supporters to ask about people’s expectations from her.

However, some people also say that leaving her old party is an act of betrayal and she has been branded being overambitious. Many said that candidates have to engage in debates and criticise each other and the parties. “What will she say about DPT now? She had been praising it through the past three elections,” Dorji, a voter from Mongar gewog said.

Others, who affiliate themselves with parties outside the Parliament, are worried the opposition will get weaker if the ruling candidate wins. “If DNT candidates win, it’ll make DNT more powerful and the general elections are coming in 2023,” one voter from Mongar said.

Some previous DNT party workers alleged that the party office had not attended to party workers after it won the 2018 elections which could now hamper its candidate’s chances.

“There were party workers who sacrificed their work and support during the campaign but when the election was done were left without even a proper thank you. At least the party office could have compensated them with a meager amount as a wage,” said a former gewog coordinator.

The outcome of the election is largely dependent on how popular the DPT candidate is and how supporters of other parties behave.

By Tshering Namgyal | Mongar