PDP GS Sonam Jatso claims that his party has gained the image of a party that delivers

With the next parliamentary elections just about a year away, new parties are coming up and some of the existing parties are getting more active.

The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), however, says it will remain focused on fulfilling its pledges until the end of its tenure. For now, politicking is secondary for PDP.

The party’s General Secretary (GS), Sonam Jatso, said it’s “too early” to talk about 2018 elections.

Sonam Jatso said “our people” in different parts of the country are getting “anxious and concerned” due to coming up of new political parties. However, he said the party does not want to get distracted, as there is still more than a year left for the government to complete its term.

Although Sonam Jatso has already embarked on a nationwide tour to meet party coordinators and supporters, he said dzongkhag visits are not directly related to 2018 elections. “Of course, it may help indirectly, but it’s not the main purpose.”

He has already visited Punakha and Wangdue as part of his nationwide tour.

Sonam Jatso said, “My plan is to visit our dzongkhag offices to talk to our people and to let them know that there is no need for them to get too anxious and that we still have more than a year left before the next elections. We want to focus on serving our Tsawa-Sum.”

During his tour, Sonam Jatso will inform the coordinators about the government’s achievements in terms of fulfilling major pledges and the implementation of the 11th Plan.

“I wanted our party to remain low profile and non-controversial so that the government can focus on serving the Tsawa-Sum,” he said.

Since the 2013 general elections, PDP’s membership has been increasing. From 242 in 2013, membership grew to 336 in 2015. Sonam Jatso said that the party today has about 500 registered members.

Sonam Jatso said that PDP has party coordinators in almost all the dzongkhags.

“After the last local government elections, we identified almost all gewog coordinators,” Sonam Jatso said.

When asked if the dzongkhag tour can be construed as campaigning for the upcoming elections, he said: “My tour is to meet party coordinators and workers, not with general public.”

“Besides clarifying issues and discussing our future plans, we also discuss how we are going to strengthen our party for 2018, including identifying of new candidates for 2018 and assessment of the serving the MPs, identifying gewog coordinators, and collecting feedback from the grassroots.”

Sonam Jatso said that he informed the Election Commission of Bhutan about his tour in writing before he started the tour.

One of the constraints for political parties has been the lack of enough registered members, which is one of the main sources of money. Some say the lack of membership is linked to “restrictive” electoral laws.

Sonam Jatso said, “If our electoral laws are too restrictive, we must correct them and find the middle path. We have the opportunity to make our democracy one of the finest democracies in this world. This can happen only if the people are willing to actively and meaningfully participate and engage in the political process.”

“Our democracy must be homegrown and must ensure that it benefits all our people and works within our own distinct culture and way of life. Our politicians must lead by example and earn the trust and respect of our people,” he said.

Sonam Jatso also said that the electorate must understand the true value of their vote and use it meaningfully, ensuring that the best candidates win. “Our political parties must conduct themselves responsibly and professionally.”

When asked if he thinks PDP is the favourite to win the next election, Sonam Jatso said: “I think we have a good chance of winning in 2018. But uncertainty is the reality of life, especially in politics.”

One of the biggest assets of his party, Sonam Jatso said, is the leadership of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who he describes as hardworking, loyal, intelligent and humble. “He is non-divisive and serves without any partiality.”

Sonam Jatso said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, the party has lived up to the expectations of the Bhutanese people.

“We have gained the image of a party that delivers, a party that walks the talk and serves with humility. A party that is hardworking, non-divisive and non-corrupt,” said Sonam Jatso.

He said the party has been able to mobilise funds required for the 11th Plan. “We have gone beyond the11th Plan and have initiated major projects like the widening of the east-west highway, education reforms, including the establishment of central schools and teachers’ professional development and establishment of Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd. to make funds available to our rural farmers and emerging entrepreneurs.”

Sonam Jatso said that the government has been able to prevent the economy from going into depression and that it is now growing at a sustainable rate. “Through Wangtse Chhirpel, we have invested and empowered our local governments and our people in rural areas.”

He said the government’s effort to make investments in rural development continues to make a huge impact. “We have also fulfilled all our major 2013 election pledges. Our investment in helicopter service, especially in emergency medical evacuation, has saved so many precious lives.”

Sonam Jatso said that in 2018, PDP would field a team of highly qualified candidates with experience, work ethic, character, and integrity. He is also planning to contest from the Gangzur-Minjey constituency of Lhuntse. “I will consult people of my constituency before I make the final decision.”

He said good people must be encouraged to join politics. “We must make our people understand that politicians in Bhutan are different. That in fact, joining politics can be the best way to give back to our Tsawa-Sum.”

He added: “Democracy came to us as a precious gift from our Kings. If we value this gift, we must all take care of it and contribute intelligently to make it the best democracy. Together, we can make it happen.”

MB Subba