The verdict is out. Bhutanese electorate, as many assume, are not ignorant. They remain, as unpredictable as ever.
Before the poll day and when the provisional results started coming in last night, many thought that the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were the real shoo-in. As more votes poured in, the competition was between the DNT and the DPT. Incumbent PDP was defeated with a huge margin.
People also voted for change, a campaign message that DNT’s president Lotay Tshering drilled into the ears of the voters he met or addressed. They have answered the party’s call. If the party will go and form the new government is yet to be seen, but the party had fared well in most of the constituencies. Their steady votes in most constituencies, even when losing in other party’s stronghold made the difference.
With a slogan of “narrowing the gap,” the party appealed to the masses. Their “realistic” pledges could have convinced the voters. It also won the maximum postal votes, which was crucial in the outcome of the final results.
As we analyse the results, we see a good trend. Except for Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, it was a closely contested election among three parties on the poll day. The primary round of the election is based on the first-past-the-post or simple majority system. DNT with the majority votes won only 16 constituencies while DPT won in 22. This was the closest election between two parties in the primaries. DNT won by only 0.9 percent more votes.
What came clear from the results is that the Crane is still roosting in the east. DPT won with huge majority in the four dzongkhags of Trashigang, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel. These dzongkhags also have the highest number of voters and are crucial to political parties.
When we look back at the results that left many in shock, the unpredictability of the Bhutanese electorate is clear. The general mood was that the negative campaigning and allegations against DPT, especially on social media, had damaged the party’s chance. It didn’t. From the results, we can surmise that the negative campaign backfired! DPT and DNT became the target of hate messages on social media as the election neared.
There are also many positives to take from the 2018 primaries. For the first time, male voters outnumbered women voters, although the difference is minimal. The voter turnout was 4 percent higher than the in 2013. It is sad that BKP couldn’t garner the 10 percent share to be eligible for state funding.
How the two parties campaign here on and where the supporters of PDP and BKP would lean will make a difference in the general round on October 18. But if yesterday’s results were any indication, we would have a good balance in the third Parliament without absolute majority.