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Bhutan: Dawn of Democracy

New Delhi, Mon, 24 Mar 2008 Deepak Kumar Mohanty

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan votes for peoples power as the first ever democratic process with the parliamentary election begins on Monday. Over 3 lakh Bhutanese are eligible to vote to end absolute monarchy with an aim to usher a new era of political change by introducing democracy.

The 47-member lower house of Bhutan parliament or the National Assembly will have now people’s representative in which two main parties: People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bhutan Harmony Party or the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) are striving for mileage. Both parties are some how associated with monarchy rule earlier as both are led by two former prime ministers.

Bhutan has been preparing itself for democracy since former monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth hereditary monarch, decided to move for a democratic government with elected members in national assembly. However, his son King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, will remain as head of state, according to the new constitution.

Unlike other countries where there has been some kind of uprising against the monarchy in the transition to democracy, Bhutan never has witnessed any fierce protest and the king is highly respected among the masses. The recent political transformation can deposit a perfect example of a peaceful transformation to people’s rule for a common cause with a progressive outlook.

The ‘Himalayan Eden’ with nearly 7 lakh population of which 3 lakh-odd number of citizens are eligible to express their franchise. Elections for the upper house were held on Dec 31, 2007 in which most members of the 20-member upper house were elected.

On Dec 17, 2005, the King had first announced a possible general election by 2008 and since then the King and his son travelled across the nation to make people understand the need of a democratic system. In fact it was the king himself who had initiated the entire process of transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one in 1999 with the formation of Council of Ministers called Lhengye Zhungtshog.

Today the prime aim of the political parties is to take their nation in to a development path. Though, there is not much ideological difference between the two parties but the concept of gross national happiness with a notion of overall development is on the priority basis.

Which ever comes to power the sole objective of the government should be to find out solution for deep rooted problems like poverty and youth unemployment by good governance. Also there is need of a balanced economic growth, environmental protection and cultural preservation and above all equal rights for all which seems a pressing task for the new government to come up. Let’s hope that this “dawn of democracy” write a new chapter in the history of this Himalayan kingdom.

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