Among the several changes political parties are making within the party, one aspect that has not changed for any of them is the number of women candidates contesting the election. 

Of the 46 candidates the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) declared yesterday, only five are women, making up 10.8 percent of the candidature. 

DNT said that even if the number is small, it believes that the quality and success of women candidates they have would inspire more women to join politics 

Responding to a question from the media, the party’s candidate from North Thimphu constituency, Dechen Wangmo, said, “It’s not about numbers but the kind of belief they come with to join politics to encourage and inspire other women.”

Besides Dechen Wangmo, DNT is fielding Yeshey Dem from Khamaed-Lunana in Gasa, Dorjee Wangmo from Sombaykha in Haa, Tshewang Lhamo from Chhukha’s Bongo-Chapcha and Dil Maya Rai from Tashichhoeling of Samtse. 

Even as the political parties are drafting their election manifesto, they say they have not yet discussed whether or not Bhutan should have a quota system to boost women participation  in politics.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013 had promised to introduce a reservation of 20 percent seats in elected offices for women. However, the government later said that it had dropped the issue on the advice of stakeholders.

PDP is almost certain to have two women candidates – Haa’s Bji Kar Tshog Uesu MP Kinley Om and Works and Human Settlement Minister Dorji Choden from Thrimshing-Kangpara in Trashigang, since no constituencies remain vacant as of now. 

PDP general secretary Sonam Jatso said, “Almost all the seats are filled and new candidates would be recruited only if the party replaces some more MPs. So far we have two women candidates (who are serving MPs.)” 

“We tried out best to introduce reservations. We haven’t talked about reservation after the issue was dropped,” he said. 

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) general secretary Ugyen Dorji said his party has confirmed about six women candidates. The party has officially announced the candidature of Tsheirng Choden from Khar-Yurung in Pemagatshel while the rest of the candidates are expected to be declared soon.   

Party officials say most of the former women candidates in the party will get the party ticket. 

The party’s general secretary Ugyen Dorji said that the number is perhaps the highest among the four political parties. 

Ugyen Dorji pointed out two main factors for lack of enough women candidates – the winability factor and women’s lack of confidence and determination to contest elections. 

He said DPT has confirmed candidates in 45 constituencies and that the party is in the process of finalising candidates in the last remaining two vacant constituencies. Although the party says that most of the old candidates would be retained, it had not declared them officially as of yesterday.  

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), the only party led by a women president, has introduced four women candidates so far. 

They are party president Dasho Neten Zangmo from Dewathang-Gomdar in Samdrupjongkhar, Kesang Choden from Bardo-Trong in Zhemgang, Chador Wangmo from Dagana’s Drujegang-Tseza and Dechen Zangmo (PhD) from Kabji-Talo constituency of Punakha. 

BKP vice president Sonam Tobgay said, “BKP values participation and therefore encourages 30 percent women candidature as our party policy provided the candidate meets the competency.” 

The party, he said, also has a policy to provide 20 percent of the party tickets to youth provided they meet competency and meritocracy level.  

Sonam Tobgay said that his party has confirmed all 47 candidates but they would be declared in a phase manner. 

At the recent Democracy Forum in Thimphu, Dasho Neten Zangmo said that Bhutan needed more women representation in Parliament and in the decision making process but said it was difficult to find women candidates.

Even at home, she said the father and mother have aspirations and desire of their own. “I think women need to come forward.”

Only four of the 25 National Council members, including two eminent members, are female and as many in the 47-member National Assembly. Women parliamentarians account for 11 percent of the 72 members. 

According to election commission, women comprise 51.13 percent of the total 432,030 eligible voters, while men make up 48.87 percent.

MB Subba