Polity and Governance 2023: A year in review

The year ushered in new players while bidding farewell to incumbents as well as seasoned politicians

The year 2023 unfolded a series of political developments which culminated in five parties contesting the primary round of election for the Fourth Parliament of the National Assembly (NA), while twenty new Members of Parliament (MP) were elected for the National Council (NC). This year also bade farewell to the former government, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) having ended their five year tenure in office in October. One of the oldest and the first democratically elected political party in the country, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) bowed out of the political fray right from the primary round of election.

National Assembly (NA)

In strict accordance with Section 24, Article 10 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the Third National Assembly (NA) convened its term-end sitting on October 30, 2023, signifying the culmination of the five-year tenure of the incumbent NA of the Third Parliament of Bhutan.

Before their term ended, in the Tenth Session of the Third Parliament, the members deliberated on agreement of Traffic-in-Transit between the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Bhutan, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Charter, Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities and Biological Corridor Nine Bill of Bhutan.

Lhengye Zhungtshog (Cabinet)

The Lhengye Zhungtshog hall at the Tashichhodzong bore witness to the then Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering and the Cabinet ministers coming together for one last time to offer prayers that auspiciously drew curtain on the tenure of the third democratically elected government.

National Council (NC)

A total of 89 candidates, including five female candidates were nominated for the NC election through demngoi zomdues in the twenty dzongkhags. The poll day on April 20, 2023 saw the people of Bhutan electing 20 representatives, including a lone woman candidate for the Upper House. With a voter turnout of 54.64%, the elections of 2023 set the highest voter turnout record in the history of NC elections conducted so far.

The Fourth National Council members took their Oath or Affirmation of Office in accordance with Article 10.18 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan on May 10, 2023.

In accordance with the National Council Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Rules of Procedure of the National Council of Bhutan, an election for the post of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson was conducted on May 10 in the session hall.

The NC Member of Parliament (MP) from Chukkha Dzongkhag, Sangay Dorji was elected as the Chairperson after securing the highest number of votes while Dago Tsheringla from Haa Dzongkhag was elected as the Deputy Chairperson.

Elections

Two new parties entered the political arena to contest the primary round of NA elections. Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) received the certificate of registration from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) on August 22, 2022, becoming the first new political party in almost a decade to get a registration certificate from the ECB. The ECB formally approved Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) as a registered political party on January 9, 2023, which applied for registration on November 30, 2022.

Kinga Tshering representing North Thimphu constituency was nominated as the party president of DTT while Dasho Pema Chhewang representing  Kanglung-Samkhar-Udzorong constituency in Trashigang was elected as the president of the BTP.

In a surprising turn of events, the first democratically elected government and one of the oldest political parties in the country, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) bowed out of the fray right from the primary round of elections.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secured the highest number of valid votes while Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) received the next highest number of valid votes in the primary round, ensuring their ticket to contest the general round of election slated for January 9, 2023.

The overall voter turnout was 63%.  Of the total 4, 97,058 eligible registered voters, 3, 13,162 voters cast their votes. From the total votes cast, 1,95,719 votes were cast in person on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at the 809 polling stations, and 1,17,443 votes were cast through Postal Ballots (PB-In-country & Overseas) and Special Early Voting (SEV) facilities.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu