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Bhutanmarker held its first general election on March 24, 2008 for the National Assembly. Two parties were registered by the Election Commission of Bhutan to contest the election: the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (DPT, for Druk Phuensum Tshogpa), which was formed by the merger of the previously established Bhutan People's United Party and All People's Party and is led by Jigme Y. Thinley, and the People's Democratic Party (PDP). The third political party, the Bhutan National Party (BNP), had its application for the registration canceled.

Electoral system

The elections for the 47 seats of the National Assembly were planned to be held in two rounds: In the first round, voters would have voted for a party. The two parties with the largest share of the national vote would then have been able to field candidates in the 47 constituencies. However, as only two parties successfully registered for the election, the election was held in one round.

Constituencies

The 47 constituencies of the National Assembly of Bhutan are:
District Constituencies
Bumthangmarker Chhoekhor-Tang
Chhume-Ura
Chhukhamarker Phuentsholing
Bongo-Chapcha
Daganamarker Druzeygang-Tseza
Lhamoy Zingkha-Trashiding
Gasamarker Goenkhatoe-Laya
Goenkhamey-Lunana
Haamarker Bji-Katsho-Uesu
Sombaykha
Lhuentsemarker Gangzur-Minjay
Menbi-Tshenkhar
Mongarmarker Mongar
Dremitse-Ngatshang
Kengkhar-Weringla
Paromarker Lamgong-Wangchang
Doga-Shaba
Pema Gatshelmarker Nganglam
Khar-Yurung
Nanong-Shumar
Punakhamarker Lingmukha-Toewang
Kabji-Talo
Samdrup Jongkharmarker Deothang-Gomdar
Jomotshangkha-Martshala
Samtsemarker Pagli-Samtse
Sipsu
Dorokha-Tading
Ugentse-Yoeseltse
Sarpangmarker Shompangkha
Gelephu
Thimphumarker North Thimphu Throm-Kawang-Lingshi-Naro-Soe
South Thimphu Throm-Chang-Dagala-Genye-Mewang
Trashigangmarker Radhi-Sakteng
Bartsham-Shongphu
Thrimshing Kanglung
Kanglung-Samkhar-Uzorong
Wamrong
Trashi Yangtsemarker Bumdeling-Jamkhar
Khamdang-Ramjar
Trongsamarker Nubi-Tangsibji
Drakteng-Langthel
Tsirangmarker Pataley-Tsirangtoe
Kikhorthang-Mendrelgang
Wangdue Phodrangmarker Nyisho-Sephu
Athang-Thedtsho
Zhemgangmarker Bardo-Trong
Panbang


Results

Turnout reached nearly 80% by the time the polls closed, and the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party reportedly won 44 seats, with the People's Democratic Party winning only three seats (Phuentsholing in Chhukha, Goenkhatoe-Laya in Gasa and Sombeykha in Haa). The PDP's leader, Sangay Ngedup, who is also the ruling king's uncle, lost his own constituency by 380 votes. Reportedly, there were few differences between the platforms of the two parties, which might explain the unexpectedly uneven results; analysts are worried that the small representation of the opposition may obstruct the functioning of the newly founded democratic system. Both parties had pledged to follow the king's guidelines of "pursuing Gross National Happiness", and both party leaders had previously served in governments.

Another attempt to explain the BPPP's large-scale victory is that it is apparently the more royalist of the two parties..

An explanation popularly given by Bhutanese in the days leading up to the election for the lack of support for the People's Democratic Party was that it would encourage corruption and be contrary to the King's request for the Bhutanese to form a popular government to elect leadership having (as was popularly believed about the PDP) strong personal ties to both the King and Bhutanese business.

Due to a mistake in tallying the votes in Phuntsholingmarker, it turned out that actually, the BPPP had won 45 seats and the PDP only 2.

The two PDP members who were elected have refused to take up their seats and resigned their mandates, claiming that the civil servants informally campaigned for the DPT and thus greatly influenced the result.

The DPT officially approved its leader as candidate for PM on 5 April 2008. He took office on 9 April.

Mock elections

On April 21, 2007, a mock election was held to prepare the population of Bhutan for the imminent change to democracy. These elections were held in all 47 National Assembly of Bhutan constituencies and at 869 polling stations with around 1,000 voters at each one of them. The parties "contesting" the election were the Druk Blue Party, the Druk Green Party, the Druk Red Party and the Druk Yellow Party (with Druk being Bhutanese for "thunder dragon"), each of them representing certain values as their "party manifesto": yellow traditional values, red for industrial development, blue for fairness and accountability, and green for the environment. The two parties winning the most votes were to proceed to a run-off election scheduled for May 28, 2007. Election observers were present from the United Nations and from Indiamarker.

The results of the first round were as follows:

Party Votes %
Druk Yellow Party 55,263 44.30
Druk Red Party 25,423 20.38
Druk Blue Party ≤25,423 ≤20.38
Druk Green Party ≥18,638 ≥14.94
Total (turnout 44%) 124,747 100


The two leading parties, Druk Yellow Party and Druk Red Party, put up randomly chosen high school students as candidates in the 47 constituencies in the second round on May 28, 2007, in an effort to produce a two-party system to avoid the need for coalition governments and possible political instability, something which the Bhutanese tend to fear. The Druk Yellow Party swept the vote and won 46 of the 47 constituencies. Turnout in the second round was 66%.

283,506 people had registered to vote, though it is considered likely that a total of 400,000 would have been eligible to register as voters.

Election schedule

The election procedure began with the submission of the letters of intent, lists of candidates, copies of election manifestos and audited financial statements by the two political parties contesting the elections to the election commission followed by the release of the party manifestos by them on January 22, 2008.

From January 31, to February 7, 2008 both political parties submitted the nomination papers for their candidates for the 47 constituencies. The candidates, whose nominations were accepted, started campaigning in their constituencies from February 7, 2008. The election campaign ended at 9:00 on March 22, 2008. The last date for receiving the postal ballots was February 18, 2008. The elections were held on March 24, 2008 from 09:00 to 17:00 followed by the counting of ballots on the same day. The results were declared on March 25, 2008.

All eligible voters were allowed to register with the election commission till February 20, 2008 for inclusion of their names in the voters list which was updated to include those eligible voters who were eighteen years old on or before January 1, 2008. The final electoral roll was published on March 5, 2008.

References

  1. Erdrutschsieg der Royalisten in Bhutan (International, NZZ Online) (German)
  2. "Thinley takes over as Premier", The Hindu, April 11, 2008.
  3. Bhutan set for mock elections on April 21 Hindustan Times, 20 April 2007
  4. Bhutan holds fake national poll BBC News, 21 April 2007
  5. Bhutan's election dummy run The Australian, 21 April 2007
  6. Bhutan votes for tradition and monarchy in mock poll The Star, 22 April 2007
  7. Bhutan mock poll votes for tradition The Star, 30 May 2007
  8. Encouraging turnout in Bhutan's historic mock polls India eNews, 28 May 2007


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