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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Polls open in Bhutan’s general elections

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Voters in Bhutan began casting their ballots Tuesday as polls opened for the country’s final round of parliamentary elections, local media reported.

At one polling station in the quiet town of Damphu, capital of Tsirang District, many vehicles and voters were seen arriving from different parts of the country for the polling day, national newspaper Kuensel reported.

Sudh Man, 65, came to Tsirang on Monday from Punakha District with his wife and nephew. “It is important to vote, and I came to support the party we want to win,” Kuensel quoted him as saying.

Two political parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), are contesting Tuesday’s vote across all 47 constituencies in the Himalayan kingdom. A party has to win at least 24 constituencies to form a government.

A preliminary round in November narrowed the race down to two parties, with PDP securing 42.53 percent of total votes and BTP 19.58 percent, results from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) showed.

Both the previous government’s lawmakers and their former opposition were knocked out in the preliminary polls.

The ECB has deployed over 6,000 officials, including security personnel, to 812 polling stations across the country. The polls started at 8 a.m. (0200 GMT) and will close at 5 p.m. (1100 GMT) local time, the ECB said.

“We are happy to report that we are fully prepared,” Bhutan Broadcasting Service quoted ECB’s Director of Secretariat Phub Dorji as saying on Monday.

According to the ECB’s final electoral roll, there are over 496,000 registered voters, of which nearly 126,000 have registered for postal ballots.

On Saturday, the ECB declared a no-campaign period on or 48 hours before the polling day, not even through social media.

Bhutan, a landlocked country with a population of around 800,000, held elections for the first time in 2008 after political reforms established a bicameral parliament soon after the start of the reign of the present King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.


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