Bhutan’s liberal Tobgay becomes prime minister after fourth free vote

To mark his appointment formally, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck handed a scarf to Tobgay

Reuters
Published : 28 Jan 2024, 03:35 PM
Updated : 28 Jan 2024, 03:35 PM

Bhutan’s liberal politician Tshering Tobgay, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), officially began his second term as prime minister on Sunday, following elections earlier this month.

To mark his appointment formally, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck handed a scarf to Tobgay, a statement posted on the king's official facebook page said.

Tobgay, 58, is country's fourth freely elected prime minister since democracy was established in the Himalayan kingdom 15 years ago. A former bureaucrat and an advocate for Bhutan’s Buddhist culture, he was previously prime minister from 2013 to 2018. He was also the leader of opposition in the parliament set up after the first free vote in 2008 until 2013.

Bhutan is a country of fewer than 800,000 people, situated between China and India. It is known for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, an economic gauge that takes into account factors such as recreation and emotional well-being that are ignored by gross domestic product measures.

But Tobgay faces the challenge of revamping the $3 billion economy following the COVID-19 pandemic and creating jobs to prevent young Bhutanese people from going abroad, mainly to Australia, in pursuit of better opportunities.

Bhutan has extensive economic and cultural ties with India, which is also its largest donor and trade partner and Tobgay has made clear his wish to mtaintain a deep relationship with the country.

It has no formal diplomatic relations with China but is in talks with Beijing to resolve border disputes - negotiations closely watched by India, which has its own border dispute with China.