Bhutan’s voters have handed an overwhelming victory to a new party headed by a surgeon in only the third democratic election held by the Himalayan kingdom, according to provisional results.
The country of 800,000 people, wedged between giant neighbours China and India and known for its Gross National Happiness index, has now chosen a different party to rule at each election since the end of absolute monarchy in 2008.
The centre-left Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), which was only formed in 2013, won 30 of the 47 national assembly seats in Thursday’s vote, according to the provisional results released by Bhutan’s election commision. Official results are to be announced Friday.
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) secured the other 17 seats in the runoff contest limited to the two parties who led a first round of voting in September, the AFP news agency reported.
The last ruling party was excluded from the contest.
DNT leader Lotay Tshering, a 50-year-old urology surgeon who trained in Bangladesh and Australia, vowed to work for “nation-building” in the country, which is battling high foreign debt, mainly owed to India, as well as youth employment, rural poverty and criminal gangs.
Both parties had vowed to boost the economy with Tshering’s party using the slogan “Narrowing The Gap”.
The DPT, which won Bhutan’s first election in 2008 but did not get a seat in the 2013 vote, had wanted to accelerate the building of hydropower plants which dominate the economy, with electricity mainly exported to India.
The DNT has been more wary about increasing Bhutan’s debt to pay for more power plants.