The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), led by Tshering Tobgay has swept the elections to the General Assembly of Bhutan. It won 32 out of 47 seats, while the outgoing party, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), managed to retain the remaining seats.
The results were declared on the website of the Election Commission of Bhutan. It said a formal announcement would, however, be made on Sunday.
The PDP, which made huge gains in Nepali-speaking southern Bhutan, won only 12 seats in the May primaries. It secured 32.5 per cent of the votes, against outgoing the DPT’s 44.5 per cent.
Much of the credit for the PDP’s victory is being attributed to the dynamic and vocal Mr. Tobgay, a former civil servant who, even with just two seats in the outgoing Assembly, put up a formidable and vocal opposition in the last five years. The focus of the party’s election campaign in the last few days was the “strained India-Bhutan relations,” where it laid the blame for withdrawal of subsidy on LPG and kerosene among other things, on the mishandling by the DPT.
Mr Tobgay also did some smart informal mergers with the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), which lost the primaries by fielding seven of their strongest candidates. He crafted his party's campaign around exposing what he described as “the DPT's hollow claims on Gross National Happiness” aimed more at an international audience which, he alleged, did not deliver tangible benefits to people.
All except two of the Cabinet ministers who contested the elections retained their seats. The DPT also won in Thimphu and Paro towns.
Saturday’s polls were also witnessed by India’s Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath who was a special invitee and visited several polling stations. India has provided some logistical support by gifting 4130 electronic voting machines to Bhutan.
For the last two days, all roads have led out of Thimphu, as most people went back to their native places in the countryside to cast their votes in the nation’s second general election. Rural roads, constructed by the country’s first democratic government in the last five years, buzzed with cars, taxis and buses as Bhutanese prepared for their constitutional obligation in all seriousness. Indeed, so serious has been the conduct and participation of people in the election that an outsider could be forgiven for mistaking the calm and quiet on the streets of the capital on polling day for a curfew.
With shops, business establishments, offices, schools and just about everything shut for the day, only the occasional taxi or police car could be spotted on the roads during polling hours, making Bhutan the odd one out among South Asia’s other democracies who bring in new governments amidst much noise, colour and some violence. The 1065 polling stations across the country where people came in their best traditional clothes usually reserved for fairs and special occasions, were the only places where crowds, quiet and respectful, had gathered.