Bhutan’s first electoral upset in national politics

Call it the’ incumbency factor’, or whatever you like, the fact is that the Bhutanese people have thrown out their first democratically elected government, and opted for a whole new set of first timers!

Bhutan’s opposition People’s Democratic Party has stormed to an upset victory in the weekend parliamentary election.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had won 31 seats in the vote for parliament while the incumbent Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party had snared just 14 seats according to the website of Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel, as of 1430 GMT.

The winning party needed 24 out of 47 seats up for grabs to form the next government in the “land of the thunder dragon”, according to the Kuensel website, after two other groups were knocked out in a primary voting round in May.

The polling marked only the second time in history that voters in the landlocked Buddhist nation, sandwiched between India and China, have elected a government.

bhutanelect

PDP is brown and DPT is russet in this electoral result map. PDP won 32 seats, DPT 14

It was not immediately possible the for Election Commission of Bhutan to confirm the results.

Official results will be announced on Sunday.

Remote Bhutan’s line of “dragon kings” ceded absolute power five years ago, introducing democracy to an electorate of fewer than 400,000 people.

The royalist DPT won the first election by a landslide in 2008 and bagged this year’s primary round with 45 per cent of votes.

But recent gains by the PDP shook up the contest with one local editorial calling it “a neck-and-neck race”.

The DPT had sought to win favour with rural communities – about 70 per cent of the population – by improving their access to roads, mobile phone networks and electricity in the past five years.

But the election process was stirred up by a recent straining of ties with Bhutan’s giant neighbour and longtime ally India, which suddenly cut subsidies earlier this month on cooking gas and kerosene to the kingdom.

“People blame the incumbent government for not addressing the economy which is in a very bad shape, and the subsidy cut – all this seems to be adding to their woes,” said political analyst Kencho Wangdi ahead of the results.

The rising fuel prices come as Bhutan has been struggling under a credit crunch and import restrictions, after running out of Indian rupee supplies last year on soaring demand.

Casting votes was a huge logistical challenge across the mountainous country, with officials trekking for up to seven days to set up polling stations.

Wearing their distinctive traditional dress – the knee-length wrap-around “gho” for men and the ankle-length dress known as the “kira” for women – voters queued patiently under sunny skies at polling stations in the isolated nation to choose the lower house of parliament.

Bhutan is the only country in the world to pursue “Gross National Happiness”, a development model that balances spiritual and mental wellbeing with financial growth.

It was the last country in the world to allow television in 1999, and high visitor fees aim to keep out mass tourism to shield the country’s natural beauty and Buddhist culture.

Another policy that sets the country apart is its goal to make its farming 100 per cent organic.

In April, Bhutan voted for 20 elected seats in the National Council, the upper house of parliament whose members have no party affiliation and monitor the government’s actions, review legislation and advise the king.

Party leaders kicked off the election season in early May with a televised debate.

Share Button
Posted by on July 14, 2013. Filed under Bhutan,SOUTH-ASIA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login