News / Asia

Bhutan Set for Change in Power Following Election

In this photograph taken on July 13, 2013, Bhutanese men wait in line to cast their votes at a polling station in Thimphu.
In this photograph taken on July 13, 2013, Bhutanese men wait in line to cast their votes at a polling station in Thimphu.
Anjana Pasricha
Bhutan's new government is preparing to take power following the country’s second-ever election, which consolidated democracy five years after its monarch gave up power. 

Six years ago, Tashi Tobgay, a tour operator based in the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, witnessed a mock election held to help people understand the concept of voting for political parties.  Less than a week ago he voted in the second election held since the Bhutanese monarch decided to hand over power to a civilian government in 2008. 
 
President of the People's Democratic Party, Tshering Tobgay, addresses the media in Thimpu on July 15, 2013.President of the People's Democratic Party, Tshering Tobgay, addresses the media in Thimpu on July 15, 2013.
x
President of the People's Democratic Party, Tshering Tobgay, addresses the media in Thimpu on July 15, 2013.
President of the People's Democratic Party, Tshering Tobgay, addresses the media in Thimpu on July 15, 2013.
The results were unexpected. The former main opposition People’s Democratic Party won a sweeping victory, winning 32 of the 47 seats in the National Assembly. 
 
For Tobgay, the ouster of the old government demonstrates that democracy has taken roots in his country, which was largely insulated from the rest of the world until the turn of the century. He said he feels proud.  
 
“I think Bhutan do[es] have a very good chance to showcase to the rest of the world that Bhutan do things differently," Tobgay said. 
 
Political observers say when the King gave up power there was some apprehension among the Bhutanese due to the experience of neighboring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh, where military coups, civil war and political infighting have tarnished people’s experience with democracy.  
 
But Omair Ahmad at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in New Delhi and author of a book on Bhutan said the Himalayan country has strengthened democracy through the second election.
      
“The turnout was higher than even in the first election," said Ahmad. "You have had a change of leadership, a party, and it has been done completely peacefully. Even the rhetoric has been fairly restrained. It is not a perfect picture, but it is a fairly good picture.”
 
The lively political debates among ordinary citizens in the days before the polls continue as people prepare for the new government to take over by the end of the month. 
 
Karma Ura, head of the Center for Bhutan Studies in Thimphu and a member of the interim government that supervised the polls, said people are updating their understanding of politicians and parties very rapidly.
 
“I was very surprised by the shift in the choice, the new choice made by the people," said Ura. "I personally did not expect it. The old party did very well on service delivery side such as mobile connectivity, road construction and electrification of rural areas. However, I think more subtle things like decentralization of power, or management of very difficult areas of economy, shortages of rupee, these kind of things made the middle class perhaps and educated class little bit disenchanted about skills of old government.”  
 
The new government in Bhutan has promised to develop stronger ties with India, with whom it depends for much of its trade. Just before the polls, India reduced gas and oil subsidies for its neighbor, causing prices to rise and sparking speculation that New Delhi was angry with the former government for making efforts to build friendly ties with China. 
 
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Political analysts say balancing ties with India and China has become an important part of the political discourse in the tiny country, which is sandwiched between the Asian giants.

Most people in Bhutan are in favor of retaining close ties with India, which buys hydropower from Bhutan, the country’s main export, said Ura.
 
“Solid progress depends on India’s cooperation. It [Bhutan] is landlocked, it is southward bound, it sells electricity to India, all this they want to continue, because it is so important for sustainable development of Bhutan. This is the only area from which we earn some money. This sector needs to develop.”
 
Tucked in the high Himalayas, Bhutan only permitted television and the Internet less than 15 years ago, and limits tourists in a bid to preserve its culture. The country still prefers to link its progress to what it calls the Gross National Happiness Index in place of economic indices such as Gross Domestic Product.
 
But as the new government takes over power by the end of the month, many younger Bhutanese are hoping it will also work to build a more vibrant economy and create more job opportunities. Among them is tour operator Tobgay, who is in his thirties.
 
“Bhutan needs to move forward to be part of the global village, but we need to move in a very wise way, not rush things, but take it as it comes," he said.
 
That is what many people in the country of about 700,000 people want: a careful balance between integrating with the rest of the world and preserving their culture.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NY
July 18, 2013 9:42 AM
Congratulations to Bhutan on their successful exercise of democracy & peaceful change in the govt! I hope one day Tibet will also be a free & democratic nation.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid