Next 5 years a tight ropewalk for whosoever wins election in Bhutan

Next 5 years a tight ropewalk for whosoever wins election in Bhutan

Anirban Roy,
Photo: BBS

While voters in Bhutan on October 18 will choose between Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) to lead the new government, it is going to be a tight ropewalk for the party which will come to power in the Himalayan Kingdom.

In the first round of National Assembly election, which was held on September 15, the DNT came first with 31.5 percent votes, followed by DPT with 30.6 percent support of the electorates.

Now, DNT and DPT will fight the second round of electoral battle on October 18 to choose the new party to lead the new government in Bhutan.

By now, both DPT and DNT leadership must have realized that if voted to power, keeping everyone happy for the next five years is crucial to return to power.

The short electoral history of Bhutan shows that the voters are always in the mood to change the incumbent government in the general election.

While anti-incumbency is an important factor in electoral politics in a democratic set up, since 2008 the Himalayan Kingdom has voted out two incumbent political parties.

The first National Assembly election was held in 2008 in Bhutan, and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) registered 67.07 percent vote, and won 45 of the 47 seats in the National Assembly.

While Jigme Thinley became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Bhutan, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) was the opposition party with only two seats.

In 2013 election, DPT won only 15 seats, while the PDP, which was in the opposition, came to power with 32 seats. Tshering Tobgay, an environmentalist and a cultural advocate became the second democratically elected Prime Minister of Bhutan.

With voters coming out in large numbers in the first round of the National Assembly election held on September 15, PDP was defeated and even failed to qualify for the final round of Bhutan’s third National Assembly elections. Nearly 66 percent of the electorate cast their votes in the first round–higher than the 55.3 percent turnout in the primary round in 2013.

Tshering Tobgay’s PDP came a poor third with only 27.2 percent of votes, and was knocked out from the final round of elections to the National Assembly on October 18. In Bhutan, only two top political parties of the first round can take part in the final round of general elections.

Knocking out of the incumbent parties in the first round of National Assembly elections — DPT in 2013 and PDP in 2018, is a clear indicator that electorates are highly sensitive and have sky-scraping expectations from the government.

Even in the National Council election held in April this year, the electorates gave clear indication that they are for a change, and only five out of the 25 member in the upper house, were re-elected.

After being in the opposition for five years from 2013, this time, DPT has again emerged as a strong contender in the fray, and it will have to convince the electorates that if voted to power, it would rectify its earlier mistakes and would ensure better services across Bhutan.

The DNT, which was knocked out in the primary round in 2013, emerged as the strongest party in October 18 elections. There are 4, 38,663 registered voters in Bhutan.

While campaigning is getting intensified, DNT party chief Lotay Tshering, a urologist, is campaigning for equal distribution of wealth and promised to fight the problem of unemployment. The DPT is also trying its best to gain its lost grounds across Bhutan.

Bhutan may be just 10 years old in the format of electoral democracy, but anti-incumbency factor plays important role in every elections. So, whosoever wins – the DPT or the DNT, the next five years term is going to be a tight ropewalk.