Thimphu: Bhutan Saturday ushered in the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to power in the second elections to the country’s National Assembly since it became a democracy.
The PDP stormed to power winning 32 of the 47 seats of the National Assembly or the lower house of Bhutan’s parliament while Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley’s Druk Phuensom Tshogpa (DPT) party could manage only 15, according to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).
To gain power, the winning party needed 24 seats.
In the first elections to the National Assembly in 2008 after the country adopted democracy, the DPT had won 45 seats while the PDP had to be content with just two seats.
Voting Saturday started at 9 a.m. local time (8.30 a.m. IST) and ended around the scheduled time of 5 p.m. in what was a sunny day in the tiny picturesque nation of 750,000 people. Voter turnout was recorded at 70 percent, lower than the 80 percent in the last election in 2008.
Counting started in polling centres that were turned into counting centres immediately after the conclusion of voting.
After the first phase of the elections held May 31, in which four parties were in the fray, the DPT and the PDP had qualified for the second and final phase by virtue of their highest vote tallies.
This means that only one party can form the government and the other will remain in the opposition, ensuring that there is no coalition government in this Himalayan nation as it makes the transition from a monarchy into a democracy.
Elections for the 25 seats of the National Council or upper house were held April 23. While five members of the upper house were nominated by the king, the remaining 20 were elected from the country's 20 dzongkhags or administrative and judicial districts.
All the candidates in the 20 dzongkhags stood as independents as National Council members are not allowed to belong to any political party.
For Saturday's polling, India had provided Bhutan with nearly 2,000 EVMs and India's Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath was invited to oversee the election process.
The results are seen as a defeat for outgoing Prime Minister Thinley's policies of opening up to China, a move that was seen with wariness and even suspicion by India that wields considerable influence over Thimphu's foreign and economic policies. Both parties subsequently agreed not to make India an election issue even though withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas by New Delhi adversely affected energy prices in the country and became a campaign point.