For the candidates of Athang-Thedtsho constituency in Wangdue, it does not matter how they question and critique each party’s ideology and pledges. Once the common forum concludes, the candidates come together to share their meals.

As Athang-Thedtsho constituency’s last common forum session came to an end yesterday, the candidates of the constituency sat down one more time to share their late lunch together. The candidates also completed its public debate recording the same day.

With the intention to build trust and friendship among the candidates, the idea to share the meals was proposed to the election officials.

Since then, the candidates have been sharing their meals at every common forum.

The election officials arrange for the meals and share the cost among the candidates and the election officials.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP)’s vice president and Athang-Thedtsho candidate Sonam Tobgay said that if the foundation of Bhutan’s democracy isn’t built with good morals and values, then the country will be no different from other countries.

“For BKP, democracy is not to blame anyone but to build on our own strength.

Our democracy has been given to us as a responsibility by the monarch and we cannot mess it up with corruption, mudslinging, or talking behind someone’s back. It has to be viewed as something very sacred.”

DNT’s Athang-Thedtsho candidate Kinley Wangchuk said that the three candidates  of PDP, BKP and DNT had known each other for a long time and remains good neighbours today.

He said that the dzongkhag had been politically divided in the past. “We thought we needed to heal this political division. Even during the debate, we maintain humility though we pose questions that are necessary to be asked.”

The candidates had also suggested that they try travelling together and avoid defaming each other during the campaigns.

Druk Phuensum Tsogpa’s Athang-Thedtsho candidate Nim Gyeltshen said the candidates had also volunteered to arrange the meals when the forums are conducted in their gewogs.

For PDP’s Athang-Thedtsho candidate Tandin Wangchuk, the experience has been enjoyable and stress-free unlike the past two elections.

Tandin Wangchuk said there was distrust and miscommunication in the past. But with this idea, the candidates could come together to interact and build trust. “This year there has been no complaints or issues.”

The candidates along with the election officials also had a celebratory dinner yesterday.

However, concerns were raised for door-to-door campaigns.

“This reservation is with everybody not necessarily with Athang-Thedtsho, but I hope everything turns out smooth like it did with the common forums,” one of the candidates said.

Wangdue’s Nyisho-Sephu constituency candidates also held the common forums with a similar initiative. Athang-Thedtsho constituency’s last common forum ended at Bjena gewog yesterday. Over 140 voters turned up to attend the forum.

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue