Four years back, if you had asked anyone here about politics, “I don’t know,” was a predictable answer. But since March, 2008, after the first democratically elected government came to power, it’s a different world all together. Nuanced political statements punctuate private discussions at homes, bars or restaurants, a phenomenon fuelled by the new but sensitive English language press.
Last week, the country’s biggest newspaper and 51% state-owned Kuensel took stock of ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s performance.
Bhutan’s landscape is changing. Almost every day, some part of the country is being bored for power cables or a farm road. Nomads in Merak prepared their first meal in an electric cooker two months ago. The gup in Lunana, about 10 days walk from the road end at Gasa, can be easily reached on his mobile phone.
But Peoples Democratic Party which was thrashed in the first elections with just two of 47 seats in parliament feels that the achievements are superficial. “On the one hand, the institutions built by our kings are so strong that no government would be able to mess the system overnight. On the other hand, government, in the last four years have managed to get us into some deep trouble,” Opposition leader Tshering Tobgay told Kuensel.
His party has started preparing for 2013 and would give former candidates priority. How many of them would stand for the elections is something we have to wait as see. Many, former civil servants who resigned to join politics, have started a “new life” in the corporate or private sector. Some of them have resigned and will try their chances with a new party.
But the two-member opposition has done what many powerful opposition parties across the world couldn’t do. It took the government to court over an unconstitutional tax hike and won in the first case taken by the new supreme court.
While both parties in the first elections vowed by the country’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness as its political vision, newly formed Social Democratic Party said they are the first party with an ideology.
SDP spokesperson and a former PDP candidate Dr Tandi Dorji said this party would follow social democratic principles and have a plant as its symbol. The ruling party as three cranes and PDP has a galloping horse as its symbols.
Newly launched broadsheet newspaper, The Bhutanese, in its first issue last Tuesday had a short piece on the fourth party. The Bhutan National Party has former district governors, judges, armymen senior civil servants and formers members of the parliament before democracy as its members.
BTW: Apart from the ruling and opposition, Bhutan had a party which died even before its birth. In January 2008, the Bhutan People’s United Party was disqualified by the election commission for not have a “clear ideology, vision and mission.”