In Major Upset, Bhutan’s Ruling Party Loses in First Round of General Elections
People of Bhutan waiting to cast their ballot. (Photo: tsheringtobgay.com)

Bhutan's prime minister conceded defeat on September 16, after the ruling party was knocked out in the first round of the country’s third-ever general election.

The current Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay of the People’s Democratic Party was seeking a second-term but was defeated by Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). The DPT had won Bhutan's first-ever election when the kingdom transitioned to democracy in 2008.

According to Bhutan’s Election Office, the DNT came first with 31.5% of the votes or won 92,700 votes from the 2,85,000 who cast their votes, followed closely by the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) with 30.6%.

The PDP came a surprising third, with 27.2% of votes – which knocks it out from the final round of elections to elect members to the lower house of parliament on October 18. The fourth party, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam (BKP) got only 9.7% of the total votes.

According to Bhutan’s constitution, only two political parties can take part in the final round of general elections.

"I congratulate DNT and DPT and their candidates (on) their outstanding performance," Tobgay posted on Twitter and Facebook.

According to the TheWire.in, DNT party chief Lotay Tshering a urologist, led the campaign with the theme of “narrowing” the wealth gap and tackling unemployment. Even for him, the ruling PDP’s premature departure was difficult to digest. “We are very surprised…We expected PDP to do well,” he said.

Corruption, rural poverty, youth unemployment and the prevalence of criminal gangs remain challenges for Bhutan's economy. The country is also facing an influence tussle between its two neighbouring countries – India and China.

In 2017, the armies of India and China became embroiled in a military standoff over the Doklam plateau high in the Himalayas claimed by both China and Bhutan.

The DPT’s win will have raised eyebrows in New Delhi as India has had a rocky relationship with DPT which formed the government between 2008 and 2013, largely because of the then PM Jigme Thinley’s interest in building ties with China.