Landlocked Bhutan goes to polls on Saturday in its second parliamentary elections as a controversy rages after India’s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas that has become a big campaign issue.
The polls to the 47-member National Assembly (NA) or Lower House will be contested by ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition.
Bhutan has a tri-cameral Parliament of the King, National Council and the National Assembly.
In the last election in 2008, the opposition could win only two out of the 47 seats up for grabs.
“We are all ready. It is a free and fair election. We expect the polling will be peaceful,” Bhutan Chief Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi told PTI about the polls for which India has gifted nearly 2,000 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath has been invited as the lone foreign observer.
During the campaigning, the DPT, which ruled Bhutan for five years since the Himalayan nation turned into a democracy in 2008; and opposition PDP have tried to impress upon people that concerns like India’s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas would be resolved once they form the government.
India has cut off the gas subsidy to Bhutan since a pact with the country had expired on June 30.
However, India on Thursday assured Bhutan that it will not make it “suffer” and will proceed on the issue of gas and kerosene subsidy in “full consultation” with the new government there.
Meanwhile, Bhutan on Friday said it has no plans to establish diplomatic ties with China, asserting that the country would not host missions of the “Big Five” of the U.N here.
Bhutan has a special relationship with India and the Himalayan nation’s stated policy is that it won’t allow the U.N. Big Five — China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. — to have diplomatic missions in Thimphu.