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So far, a pale shadow of the first edition

The heat and dust of the 2008 elections is unlikely to be replicated this time around

Elections 2013: Fresh, colourful stickers, encouraging people to vote during the general election, were stuck on wooden doors and window frames of the traditional houses in the remote villages of Trashigang.

Outside on the lawns, children would be singing party slogans, and their parents, including village elders, would be talking about political parties, the sun warming their aching worn backs.

Occasionally, villagers gathered on the barren fields to hear what party workers had to say about the newly formed political parties that appointed them to woo voters.

That was around the same time this year in 2008.

In stark opposition, it is an inexplicably wan performance this year.

Trashigang, which has five constituencies, including Kangpar-Thrimshing in the east, and Radhi-Sakteng in the north, even saw neighbours getting caught up in contretemps arising from the political parties they supported.

That situation was further inflamed by party workers, who would jokingly mock candidates of the party they were in competition with, and the party itself.

This year, villagers are rather calm and nonchalant about the upcoming parliamentary elections.

A majority of the villagers are ignorant of the new political parties that are being formed and any developments thereof in the capital city.

They are also unaware about new candidates emerging and contesting from their constituencies with different parties.

“Not many people talk about political parties, or the upcoming election in the villages,” Sangay Dorji from Sakteng, who has moved to the lower altitudes of Trashigang, said. “People are aware of the upcoming elections though.”

Most gewogs in Trashigang have not heard of appointments of any party workers, both at the gewog or dzongkhag levels, either.

Many villagers said the laidback atmosphere in the villages was as a result of people having understood politics and elections much better over the last almost five years.

“Villagers understand the purpose of elections, and how things will unfold in the coming months,” Samdrup from Pam said. “In 2008, we were all new to the whole process of election happening nationwide and that was exciting.”

Today, he said, people wished to see the process through to its end, without much political wrangling, and without hurting anyone’s sentiments.

At the moment, the only talk that is doing the rounds among the villagers is the prohibition of religious gathering and performing of rituals from January that has caused much inconvenience to the people.

“In case of death in a family, we’ve been told to get written permission from the gewog authorities,” a Bartsham villager, Sherub, said.

The recent whiff, Trashigang residents have got, is with regards to People’s Democratic Party looking for a space to establish its office in Trashigang town.

Except for ther Druk Phuensum tshogpa (DPT), no political parties have dzongkhag offices in Trashigang.

Its dzongkhag coordinator Gembo said, even his office had not begun any party works.

“Until the end of DPT government’s term, no party works will begin,” he said.

Many villagers, however, believe the whole frenzy would begin only after the parties’ candidates set their feet to the villages.

Although some fear heightened confusion among villagers with more political parties, should they come about, there were others, who looked at it in a positive light.

“More parties would mean better choice of representatives to elect, unlike before,” a villager from Bartsham, Gatru, said.

Samdrup said that, in the previous elections, a few influential people in the villages, including party workers, misled many voters.

“Now people will neither vote, looking at the president of a party, nor be influenced by others,” he said. “It’ll be individual candidates’ abilities that will earn our votes.”

A few villagers also believe landslide victory would not be the case this time, as it was in the past election.

“We now understand that a stronger opposition means an even stronger governance,” Tenzin Gombo from Trashigang said. “Every political party will be welcomed warmheartedly, because we wish to elect people who’d benefit us most.”

By Tempa Wangdi, Trashigang

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