Won highest votes in three gewogs 

What led to the defeat of the seven incumbents is hard to tell, but in Lhuentse, it is the incumbency that mattered and resulted in Tempa Dorji getting elected for a second term.

The NC elect attributes his simplicity, honesty and humility as the key tools that gave people the confidence to elect him again. But his experience in the dzongkhag goes beyond his first term of representing the people of Lhuentse. “Most of the people knew me even before contesting for NC in 2013,” he said. “I also knew them individually.”

The 50-year-old with engineering experience believes that he connected with the rural voters when he served as a manager with the Bhutan Power Corporation in the dzongkhag for three years.

Details of the voting pattern support his claim. Despite being from the least populated voters among the eight gewogs, Tempa Dorji won huge votes from most populated gewog, Gangzur. His gewog, Jarey had only 1,343 eligible voters whereas Gangzur had 3,203 eligible voters.

He secured the highest votes from Tsenkhar, Maedtsho, and Jarey. He secured 153, the second highest, from Gangzur gewog.

Given his experience in the upper house, Tempa Dorji plans to promote tourism in the east with special focus in his dzongkhag.  “We have potential to do well in tourism as long as we have a good tourism policy,” he said.  “We have the most scared nye (hidden places), Singye dzong, which is popular in the entire Himalayan Region.”

He intends to improve tourism products and connectivity with the government’s support. “I want to suggest and recommend the new government to make tourism policy strong so that benefits will trickle down to the masses,” he said. “I am also hopeful that Shingkar-Gorgan high-way would get through and improve the connectivity.”

Despite being one the five NC incumbents, Tempa Dorji said he has not thought of contesting for the NC Chairman. “Right now I am trying to reflect how to translate the commitments I made to the voters during the campaign,” he said.

Tempa Doji has MSc in Electrical Power Engineering and, before taking a legislative career, he served as an engineer in a various capacities.

The first NC member from the dzongkhag, Rinzin Rinzin was close behind Tempa Dorji. Rinzin Rinzin, from Khomo gewog, secured 2,149 votes, 420 votes less than Tempa Dorji. “I was confident to win but the people changed their minds at the last moment,” he said. “Actually I was expecting a landslide victory.”

Rinzin Rinzin, 49, has PhD in Literature, MBA, MBM PA & MSc in Agriculture and BSc Agriculture. He was one of the most qualified among the candidates. He secured 1,399 votes through Electro Voting Machine and 750 postal ballots, which are 215 and 205 less than Tempa Dorji.

“People said qualification matters but the result showed wrong,” said Rinzin Rinzin.  He intends to devote his time in writing and travelling. 

“I might as well do another PhD,” he said.

Coming from the highest vote bank among the eight gewogs in the dzongkhag, Kinga Penjor did not get adequate support from his own gewog, Gangzur. The gewog has 3,203 voters but he secured only 1,043 votes of which 623 were through EVM and 420 through postal ballot.

The former producer with Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation, Kinga Penjor, said that despite covering the entire dzongkhag twice from the start of the familiarisation tour until the no campaign period, the results didn’t make much sense.

“I was confident to win the elections from the impression I got from the voters, but they changed overnight,” he said. “There are lots of factors that determine wining elections, which I experienced when actually taking part. Except my core members and supporters, the rest were influenced and changed their mind.”

He said: “Losing the elections neither disappointed nor have I any regret. My intention to stand as a NC candidate was to test how matured our people are in terms of understanding democracy,” he said. “I also wanted to see how people were exercising clean franchise but it does not seem to be happening in our young democracy.”

The 44-year-old, who has BA in Dzongkha from Sherubtse College, is planning to switch his career and never run for NC seat again. 

The youngest contestant, Tenzin Jurmey, did not get support from his own gewog, Maenbi. Of the total 746 votes, he secured 479 through EVM and 267 from postal ballot.

“My voters were hijacked by one of the senior candidates,” said Tenzin Jurmey. “There were other factors as well.”

He said that if someone had no resources it was not easy to contest in the elections. “I recommended my friends who are young graduate like me to not participate in elections. I am not going to take part anymore.  I’d rather stay in village and do farming,” he said.

Tenzin Namgyel | Lhuentse