Bhutan gears up for second national elections

Thimphu, July 12 (IANS) Bhutan is gearing up for the second elections to its National Assembly with polling scheduled for Saturday.

The ruling Druk Phuensom Tshogpa (DPT) and the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) are the two parties that are pitted against each other in all the 47 seats of the National Assembly.

After the first phase of the elections held May 31, in which four parties contested , the DPT and the PDP qualified for the second and final phase as the parties with the highest vote tallies.

This means that only a single party can form the government and one will remain in the opposition, ensuring that there is no coalition government in this small, picture-pretty Himalayan nation of 750,000 people.

While the DPT holds 45 seats after the last National Assembly elections in 2008, the PDP holds the remaining two.

Bhutan has a bicameral parliament comprising the National Council or the upper house and the National Assembly or the lower house.

Elections for the 25 seats of the National Council were held April 23 this year. While five of the members of the upper house are nominated by the king, the rest 20 are the members elected from the 20 dzongkhags or administrative and judicial districts of the country.

All the candidates in the 20 dzongkhags stood as independents as National Council members are not allowed to belong to any political party.

The 47 candidates for the National Assembly will be elected Saturday by 3,81,790 eligible voters of the country.

For Saturday's polling, India has provided Bhutan with nearly 2,000 electronic voting machines (EVMs) and India's Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath has been invited to oversee the election process, the only such person to be invited from outside Bhutan.

Meanwhile, most of the postal ballots from across the country have reached the 47 constituencies, the Kuensel newspaper reported Friday.

"With the arrival of most of the postal ballots from across the country in the constituencies, election officials have started segregating envelopes, verifying voter's electoral records and readying ballot paper envelopes to be opened on poll day tomorrow," the report said.

Postal ballots are seen as pivotal in the election process as these can be a decisive factor when the contest between two candidates gets close.

Polling Saturday will start at 9 a.m. local time (8.30 a.m. IST) and end at 5 p.m. (4.30 p.m. IST).

The results are expected to be out by 9 p.m.

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