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Bhutan votes for change

Winning 30 of the 47 constituencies, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) won the third parliamentary national assembly election yesterday.

As claimed by party president Lotay Tshering in all campaign speeches, DNT ‘easily’ swept all 12 western and southwestern dzongkhags, winning 26 constituencies.

The party’s strategy to campaign in the east could have also worked, as the party won three more seats in the east compared to the primary elections. Trashigang’s Radi_Sakteng and Thrimshing_Kangpara, the two constituencies where the contending party Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) won in the primaries went to DNT. Mongar constituency also voted for DNT.

The former opposition party, DPT won 17 constituencies, an increase of two from the 2013 general election.

The party won from all constituencies in five dzongkhags but lost three constituencies it won in the primary round, two from Trashigang and one in Mongar. Paro’s Lamgong_Wangchag constituency and Samtse’s Dophuchen_Tading, the two constituencies that DPT won in the primaries, also went to DNT this time.

Five candidates of the party, including the party president, were re-elected for the third term and two for the second term.

DNT’s victory yesterday was not a surprise.

Many voters predicted the party’s win since it secured the highest votes in the primary elections and also in the words of the party president Lotay Tshering, “all votes of People’s Democratic party’s (PDP) supporters would come for the party.”   

While many who followed the elections closely attributed the success to DNT president’s persuasion for change since the first presidential debate, public debate and party campaigns, others credit it to the common narrative of giving the new party a chance to govern.

One of the main factors of the party’s victory could be the president Lotay Tshering, who as a surgeon has touched many lives by giving importance to all patients and most voters in the rural areas refer to the party as ‘the doctor’s party’.

The party’s pledges of providing free wi-fi, doing away with class 10 examinations, solving the water and housing issues also went well with the voters.

However, the president’s ministerial portfolio offers to many candidates in the east did not impact the voters.

Except for the two candidates, who were both offered ministership in Trashigang and Mongar’s candidate, Sherub Gyeltshen, who was seen as a potential minister candidate, all other constituencies voted for DPT.

The election yesterday saw a voter turnout of 71.46 percent, an increase from the primaries of about five percent.

Figures released by the election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) officials last night stated the overall voter turnout was 313,473 of which 159,319 were female and 154,154 were male. 

The voter turnout for postal ballot facility was 113,920 of which 54,449 were female and 59,479 were male. The turnout of EVM was 199,553 of which 104,870 were female and 94,689 were male. 

As the results started pouring in, the commission’s website encountered problems with the number of constituencies reaching almost 60.

ECB’s election department head, Sonam Tobgyal, who is also the media spokesperson, said they are sorting out the rejected postal ballots to ensure the voter turnout figure is accurate.

However, the turnout, according to him was as expected, since people take general election more seriously. “They have also realised their natural responsibility.”

Sonam Tobgyal said besides some isolated incidences of people coming to vote at the electronic voting machines despite being registered as postal voters and wrong placement of postal ballots, the election was smooth and successful. “ECB would like to thank all the stakeholders involved in the election process.”

Tashi Dema

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