As Bhutanese remained glued to television sets and mobile phones last night for the provisional results of the primary election, they witnessed a close race between one of the oldest parties, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), and a new party that gained popularity in recent months, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT).
DPT and DNT will now contest in the general elections scheduled on October 18.
DNT secured the maximum number of votes, 92,722, and lead the primary election results closely followed by DPT that secured 90,020 votes.
While DNT won in 16 constituencies, DPT won in 22 constituencies. DPT also won with a huge margin in the constituencies the party was popular in.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won in the EVM but lost by a huge margin in the postal ballots. The party won in nine constituencies securing 56,180 votes in EVM but only 23,703 in the postal ballots.
The new party to contest in the primary election, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), secured only 28,473 votes. They secured the lowest votes both in the EVM and postal ballot.
In terms of percentage, DNT secured 31.8 percent of the total votes, where as DPT got 30.9 percent, PDP took 27.4 percent and BKP 9.7 percent.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) will announce the final results today.
While 182,595 Bhutanese voted in the electronic voting machines (EVM) yesterday, 108,149 cast their votes through postal ballots and facilitation booths.
The election also saw a voter turnout of 59.89 percent of which 94,595 female and 88,000 male voted in the EVM. The male voter turnout was more than female in the postal ballot where 56,398 male cast their ballot. Only 51,751 female cast ballots.
The day saw technical glitches reported from various polling stations. Some disgruntled voters walked in to the ECB’s head office to charge officials alleging they were denied the right to vote by registering for postal ballots without their knowledge.
While the exact figures were not available, many voters also called election officials in the headquarter asking about their registration as postal ballot voters. There were also a few roadblocks because of rain.
The polling station in Thanza, Lunana, took time to send election results last nights as the EVM machines gave problems. Election officials, however, said it was a successful election, as there was no major problem.
ECB’s head of Election Department, Sonam Tobgyal, said few technical glitches were expected, as there were 865 polling stations. “We had spare EVMs in place and we immediately replaced the machines that were giving problem.”
He explained that many people who reported about postal ballot problem were recent graduates, who registered for postal ballot facilitation option extended during the recent national graduate orientation programme (NGOP). “Every individual was informed about their voting status and we also gave them 10 days to check their enrolment status from August 2 to 12. They didn’t check.”
How people voted
While BKP could not win even in one constituency, DPT swept all the constituencies in the east except for Gangzur-Minjey in Lhuentse. It has also won from both constituencies in Bumthang where the party president, Pema Gyamtsho, is contesting.
Of the 22 constituencies it won, it swept all three constituencies in Mongar, five in Trashigang, three in Pemagatshel, two in Trashiyangtse, two in Samdrupjongkhar and two in Zhemgang.
It won in Menbi-Tsenkhar in Lhuentse, Lamgong-Wangchag in Paro and Dophuchen-Tading in Samtse.
DNT swept through the south-central dzongkhags of Tsirang, Dagana and Sarpang.
The party also won two of the four constituencies in Samtse, Phuentsholing constituency of Chukha, Dokar-Shaba in Paro, South Thimphu, Nyisho-Sephu in Wangduephodrang, Khatoed-Laya in Gasa, Lingmukha-Toedwang in Punakha and Nubi-Tangsibji in Trongsa.
The only constituency in the eastern dzongkhag DNT managed to capture was Gangzur-Minjey in Lhuentse.
PDP managed to dominate only in Haa. It won from Phuentshopelri in Samtse, Bongo-Chapcha in Chukha, Athang-Thedtsho in Wangduephodrang, North Thimphu and Drakteng-Langthel in Trongsa.
Why DPT and DNT
Going by the provisional results, it was clear that Bhutanese people went for change, as DNT, a new party that remained active outside the parliament, secured the highest votes.
Although it was clear that the DNT president, Lotay Tshering, managed to win the hearts of Bhutanese people as a surgeon, who operated on many and had always made himself available to the patients, anti-incumbency factor and recent social media activities also favoured the party.
A Thimphu resident, who followed the election closely, said he voted for DNT because he wanted both the old parties out of the race.
Many people, both in the urban and rural areas, however, said they were touched by the video clips uploaded and shared in social media by the former Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) journalist, Dawa, who contested for DNT from Choekhor-Tang in Bumthang.
DNT won by a huge margin from PDP in the postal ballots. DNT had 13,835 more votes than PDP although it lost to PDP in the EVM votes. DNT’s rigorous campaigning and social media presence, where it did not resort to mudslinging from fake accounts also benefitted the party.
For DPT, it was also the postal ballot that made a huge difference with PDP. Although the party also lost by 3,072 votes in EVM to PDP, it won with 13,209 postal ballots more than PDP.
Many people say the party also benefitted from the recent social media activities. “There were many negative campaigning against the party, which backfired and won sympathy votes,” said a corporate employee.