press trust of india
THIMPU, 13 JULY: THIMPU, 13 JULY: Bhutan’s main Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) tonight stormed to power getting two-thirds majority in the second parliamentary elections that was dogged by the controversy over India’s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas.
In a stunning defeat of the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), PDP won 32 seats in the 47-member National Assembly as against just two in the outgoing House. To form a government, a party needs to win a minimum of 24 seats.
The DPT could manage only 15 seats, a steep fall from 45 it had won in the 2008 national elections in the land-locked Himalayan nation nestled between India and China.
PDP president Tshering Tobgay is expected to be the new Prime Minister succeeding DPT’s Jigmi Y Thinley, whose meeting with then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of an Environment Summit in Brazil last year had raised eyebrows in India.
The peaceful elections was marked by a heavy voter turnout of 80 per cent.
This is the second national polls in Bhutan after the country became a democracy in 2008 before which it was a monarchy.
Soon after the election results were announced, PDP general secretary Sonam Jatsho thanked the people of Bhutan, saying his party would try its best to fulfil their expectations.
“We are grateful to the people of Bhutan and will try our best to fulfil their expectations,” Mr Jatsho told PTI.
During the campaigning, the rival parties tried to impress upon people that concerns like India’s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas would be resolved once they form the government.
India had cut off the gas subsidy to Bhutan since a pact with the country had expired on 30 June.
However, India had assured Bhutan that it will not make it “suffer” and will proceed on the issue of gas and kerosene subsidy in “full consultation” with the new government there.
At the same time, India maintained that “careful accounting” was required to ensure proper usage of the subsidy.
Ahead of the elections, PDP’s Mr Jatsho said: “India-Bhutan relations are so strong that you cannot imagine it can be harmed due to some minor issues.”
“We are telling people that doubts about India-Bhutan relations getting strained are unfounded. The relations only go deeper and strong. But due to certain policies of the last government, people are a little bit shaky. If we form the government, we will resolve all issues,” he told PTI.
Bhutan has a special relationship with India and the Himalayan nation’s stated policy is that it won’t allow the UN Big Five ~ China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA ~ to have diplomatic missions in Thimphu.
The meeting between Thinley and Wen in Brazil last year was seen by many in India as Bhutan’s warming up to China. Many also linked New Delhi’s recent decision to withdraw subsidy to kerosene and cooking gas with the meeting.
Bhutan has a tri-cameral parliament of the King, National Council and the National Assembly. There are 25 seats in the National Council or the Upper House. Five of them are appointed by the King and 20 are elected from 20 districts. National Assembly or lower house consists of 47 members elected from 47 constituencies. Representatives to both houses were elected first in 2008.