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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Bhutanese voters have overwhelmingly chosen Tshering Tobgay to serve as prime minister for a second term, following his party’s success in securing nearly two-thirds of the seats, as announced by the election commission on Wednesday.

The election underscored the significant economic difficulties faced by Bhutan, challenging its traditional emphasis on “Gross National Happiness” over economic growth.

The Himalayan kingdom, strategically positioned between China and India, garnered the attention of these neighboring giants, both closely observing the vote, particularly concerning contested border areas. Official figures reveal that Tobgay, the leader of the liberal People’s Democratic Party (PDP), clinched 30 out of 47 seats in Tuesday’s election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, an integral trading partner for Bhutan, conveyed his heartfelt congratulations to Tobgay via social media platform X (formerly Twitter). Tobgay, who previously served as prime minister from 2013 to 2018, responded by expressing his eagerness to reinforce the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between their nations.

Tobgay, a 58-year-old former civil servant and advocate for conservation, holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s in public administration from Harvard. Bhutan’s pressing issues, notably the high youth unemployment rate at 29 percent and sluggish economic growth, were at the forefront of voters’ concerns.

Despite acknowledging Bhutan’s “unprecedented economic challenges and mass exodus” during the campaign, Tobgay remains committed to the constitutional principle of prioritizing the “happiness and well-being of the people.” In the capital Thimphu, residents expressed hope that the new government would address critical issues such as unemployment and economic stimulation.

“We have a very high unemployment rate, especially among the youth,” emphasized Bhutanese journalist Vishal Rai, reflecting the sentiments of many citizens. As young Bhutanese individuals seek opportunities abroad, with Australia being a preferred destination, there is a collective expectation that the newly elected government will fulfill its promises and guide the country toward prosperity, particularly benefiting the underprivileged segments of society.

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