Bhutan Opposition Wins Power With Promise of Closer India Ties

Bhutan Opposition Wins Power With Promise of Closer India Ties
Men wait in line to cast their votes at a polling station in Thimphu, Bhutan on July 13, 2013. Photographer: Upasana Dahal/AFP/Getty Images

Bhutan’s opposition party swept to power in the country’s second national elections with a promise to build closer ties with neighboring India.

The People’s Democratic Party won 32 of the 47 seats in the national parliament, up from two seats at the last election, Kuensel, a local newspaper, said on its website. The ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa party won 15 seats in polling on July 13, it said.

“I would like to avail of this opportunity to assure you of the steadfast and unflinching support of India and its citizens for the steady steps that Bhutan is taking to further strengthen democratic processes and institutions,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement.

Sandwiched between China and India and with a population of 725,000, Bhutan developed a “Gross National Happiness” index to gauge the success of its economy. The index, praised by fans such as Nobel laureate economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, takes into account elements such as stress and physical exercise to measure the standard of living.

The PDP is supportive of the Bhutanese monarchy, which in turn is in favor of better relations with India, the Indian Express newspaper reported today. During campaigning, the party blamed the defeated administration of Prime Minister Jigme Thinley for failing to secure an extension of Indian subsidies on fuels, and vowed to have the assistance restored.

Bhutan held parliamentary elections in 2008, completing the country’s peaceful transition from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy.

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