Thimphu: Bhutan`s main opposition People`s Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday night stormed to power in the country`s second Parliamentary Elections during which India`s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas was a major campaign issue.
PDP won 31 seats while ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) got 14 seats in the 47-member National Assembly, according to latest poll figures, as results of the remaining two seats were awaited. To form a government, a party needs to win a minimum of 24 seats.
This is the second national election in Bhutan after the Himalayan country became a democracy in 2008. In the last election, PDP won only two of the 47 seats up for grabs.
The peaceful election was marked by a heavy voter turnout of 80 percent.
The DPT, with 45 legislators, ruled the country for five years with Jigmi Y Thinley as the Prime Minister.
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 June 30.
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 general secretary Sonam Jatsho said, "Indo-Bhutan relations are so strong that you cannot imagine that it can be harmed due to some minor issues".
"We are telling people that doubts about Indo-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 a news agency.
India has provided logistical support, including gifting nearly 4,130 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to Bhutan and Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath is here to witness the democratic process in the Himalayan nation as an observer.
In the first stage of the polls on May 31, two parties, the Druk Nymrub Tshogpa (DNT) and Druck Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), lost out leaving the DPT and PDP to contest the final stage of the polls today.
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.
Throughout the day of voting, people of all ages wearing their best traditional dresses, queued up outside polling stations for hours to cast their votes.
"I am excited to be part of my country`s democratic process by casting my vote," said first-time voter and Thimphu college student Pema Dema.
Earlier in the day, PDP president Tshering Tobgay said it is a critical election and a tight race.
"This election is absolutely critical because stakes are high. But we are cautiously optimistic," he said at his constituency Haa.
There were 3.81 lakh registered voters, including 187,917 female voters. In addition, there are 48,000 postal voters.
About 10,000 officers, including security personnel, were deployed for election duty.
A total of 850 polling stations, including 215 temporary polling stations, were set up across the country.