Bhutanese democracy

Bhutanese democracy

Bhutan is transforming its form of government from an absolute monarchy to a multi-party democracy.

Mock election

On April 21, 2007, this peaceful kingdom began practicing democracy -- literally. They held a mock election to begin to acclimate the populace to the democratic process. There were four parties on the ballot: Druk Blue, Druk Green, Druk Red and Druk Yellow. (Druk is the Dzongkha word for the thunder dragon, the country's national symbol.) Although the parties were fictional, there were thematic party platform descriptions for each one. Actual parliamentary elections will be held in 2008. cite web|url= | title =Bhutan reluctantly embraces democracy |accessdate= |accessmonthday=September 27 | accessyear=2007 |author= |last=Sengupta |first=Somini |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= | format= |work=International Herald Tribune |publisher= |pages= |language=English |archiveurl = |archivedate=]

The extraordinary aspect of this move to democracy is that it was started by the dynasty itself, directed by the (then) king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who ruled for over 30 years (until December 2006).

Early groundwork for the process began in 1953, when then king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the country's legislature – a 130-member National Assembly – to promote a more democratic form of governance. Planning for the most stunning aspect of the process -- abdication of the king's power -- started during the mid 1990's when current king Jigme decided it was the best course for the people of Bhutan. Last December, Jigme, announced that he was abdicating in favor of his 26-year-old son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who will remain head of state, but no longer have absolute power.cite web|url= | title =Wary of democracy in Bhutan |accessdate= |accessmonthday=September 27 | accessyear=2007 |author= |last=Crossette |first=Barbara |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= | format= |work=Christian Science Monitor |publisher= |pages= |language=English |archiveurl = |archivedate=]

Cultural influences

Bhutan is an orderly place. Everyone follows the traffic rules and even the country's dress code is strictly adhered to. Observers expect an orderly and peaceful transition to democracy, however, the people are generally uneasy about the future and the coming changes. One source of the discomfort is induced by the question of why change when the country is doing generally well. The King's position is that this is precisely why it is the perfect time for such changes.

Another source of apprehension stems from the country's history of isolation. Television was not introduced until 1999 and the people are unaccustomed to voicing their opinions -- or listening to others voice theirs. This is one of the reasons why the government is going to such lengths (e.g., mock elections) to train the people and insure an orderly transition.


ee also

*List of political parties in Bhutan
*Bhutanese general election, 2008


External links

* [ Government of Bhutan portal]

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