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Monarchy Loyalist Party Wins Bhutan Election

In Bhutan's landmark elections that ended a century of absolute monarchy, the party widely perceived as most loyal to the monarchy won by a landslide. Raymond Thibodeaux files this report for VOA from Thimphu, Bhutan's capital.

Most of the media and political pundits in this tiny Himalayan nation did not see much difference between the two parties vying to lead the nation into democracy, but the voters of Bhutan did.

"The DPT, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, winning 44 of 47 seats in the National Assembly, is declared the ruling party," said Bhutan Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi. "The People's Democratic Party, the PDP, having won three seats in the National Assembly, will be the opposition party."

And, with those words, Wangdi made it official. Candidates from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, also known as the Bhutan Prosperity Party, won a lopsided victory in Bhutan's first-ever national election.

DPT spokesman Palden Tshering says no one expected such a landslide.

"What I can say is the people have decided," said Tshering. "They looked at the two parties and probably figured out that our party is a party that could possibly give them the government envisioned by His Majesty [Bhutan's current king], one that is stable, one that is strong and one that will lay the foundation for the next hundred years."

The electoral turnout was 79 percent of the country's 318,000 eligible voters.

DPT President Jigmi Thinley is expected to be the country's next prime minister, a post he has held twice before. But this time, he will lead the country as Bhutan's king ends a century of dynastic rule that has been largely peaceful.

In Monday's polls, voters elected 47 members of the lower house of parliament. Twenty members of the upper house were elected, earlier this year.

Tshering says unifying the country is a top priority. "To bridge the gap that has formed in our society today as a result of the elections, that would probably be the first task that we have, because we want the country to be unified," said Tshering. "We want the people to be happy. We would rather there not be any discord in our society today."

The electoral commission says the voting was peaceful and orderly, with only minor problems.

However, the election was not without its critics. Members of the ethnic Nepali community say they were barred from voting. More than 100,000 ethnic Nepalis, who are mainly Hindu, were forced out of Bhutan in the 1990's. Many of them are living as refugees in eastern Nepal and are seeking to be repatriated to Bhutan.

 

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