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Democracy in Bhutan

Described today as the youngest democracy in the world, Bhutan's political transition from a monarchy to democratic government was formalized in a unique ceremony in the capital Thimphu. Bhutan's democratic began from the palace. "It is a gift from the golden throne", opine the Bhutanese citizens.

In Bhutan, the eastern Himalayan kingdom, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk declared in December 2005 that he would abdicate the throne and adopt a parliamentary system of government by 2008. The 50 year-old king's announcement that he would step down in favour of his son fifth king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk came as a shock to many. The constitution was drafted without representation from the dissident groups and remains vague about the monarch's prerogative powers. It also lacks a provision for an independent judiciary and fails to properly acknowledge religious, linguistic and cultural freedoms (among others). At best, it envisages a two-party oligarchy based on the Drukpa vision of a homogenous nationhood.

The first-ever democratic elections in Bhutan were held on March 2008 after the draft constitution is passed in a national referendum. The fundamentals of democracy - limited government and civil liberties - are essential in any form of democracy, even in the context of the cultural nuances of popular rule. Bhutan fails on both accounts. The launch of three private daily newspapers in the capital, Thimpu, does signal a first advance in press freedom.

In a contest between parties each led by people who have previously served as prime ministers under the monarch. Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) led by the intellectual and statesman Jigmi Thinley, stressed political integrity as the bedrock of a sound democracy and campaigned for democracy and justice. His opponent, Sangay Ngedup led the People's Democratic Party (PDP). DPT won by a surprising landslide of forty-five out of forty-seven seats and currently ruling the Bhutan for a five years term.

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