On January 9, Bhutan is preparing for the final round of its fourth parliamentary election. The main contenders are the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), which received the highest percentage of votes in the primary round of voting on November 30. Out of the five participating parties, the PDP and BTP secured 42.5 and 19.6 percent of the votes, respectively.
The ruling Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) only received 13.1 percent of the votes, putting it in fourth place and disqualifying it from the final round.
During its term, the DNT faced economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The party implemented strict and unpopular measures to manage the pandemic, which had a negative impact on business and severely limited tourism. Economic troubles in the country worsened due to increased external debt service ratio and higher fuel prices.
Economic issues are at the forefront of the upcoming election. The country’s economic recovery, inflation rates, and unemployment are key concerns. Both the PDP and BTP have proposed economic stimulus plans and have emphasized the importance of addressing household economic issues.
Both parties have also expressed support for the Gelepu Special Administrative Region (SAR) announced by Bhutan’s King Jigme Wangchuck. The proposed international city bordering the northeast Indian state of Assam aims to boost the economy and create job opportunities for Bhutanese citizens.
Foreign policy has received less attention during the campaign, but all parties support increasing cooperation with India in the hydropower sector and maintaining friendly relations with neighboring countries.
Bhutan’s fourth general election coincides with significant developments in its foreign policy, particularly regarding its neighbors, China and India.
Although Bhutan does not have diplomatic relations with China, it is engaged in talks to settle its disputed border. India is closely monitoring these talks, as it is concerned about Chinese territorial demands near its border.
Regardless of the election outcome, Bhutan’s next government faces the challenge of reviving the economy and dealing with the border dispute with China, with India playing a crucial role in both areas.