Democracy News

Bhutan King Calls Parliamentary Elections
March 26, 2013
By: Ryan Mulvenna | Printer Friendly

On March 9, Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck issued a royal decree calling for parliamentary elections to be held on April 23. The election will be the second parliamentary vote in the country’s history. King Wangchuck declared the election will consolidate Bhutan’s transition to democracy and called upon voters to “take their right and duty seriously, exercise their franchise and choose the most competent and deserving candidate as their representative.”  

The first election was held in 2008, following a decision by the royal family to create a constitutional monarchy in Bhutan. The resulting legislature was a bicameral parliament led by the current Prime Minister Jigme Thinley. The upper house, known as the National Council, is a “house of review” that addresses matters of security, sovereignty, and national interest. It consists of 25 members: 20 elected seats, one from each dzongkhag (province), and five seats appointed by the king. The National Council is apolitical, which means that members cannot be affiliated with a political party. The 20 elected members are chosen by a majority vote in single-member constituencies for a term of five years. Any number of candidates may file nomination paperwork, but only one candidate will contest the election from each gewog (county). Each gewog chooses its candidate in a preliminary round of voting, and the winner runs for office against the other candidates in the dzongkhag.   

In contrast to the National Council, members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, represent political parties. Five major parties will participate in the election: Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), Druk Chirwant Tshogpa (DCT), Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Druk Nyanrup Tshogpa (DNT), and People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The National Assembly consists of 47 members elected to five-year terms by majority vote in single-member constituencies. However, the vote for the National Assembly is not on the same day as the election for the National Council. The royal decree issued on March 9 only set the date for National Council elections. Thus, the date for the National Assembly elections has yet to be announced. 

Prior to Bhutan’s first election in 2008, large-scale democracy education efforts were undertaken to familiarize voters with election processes and procedures. Similar education efforts continue in preparation for the upcoming elections. Pro-monarchy parties dominated the first election and are expected to do so in April. Although the 2008 elections were largely peaceful, a series of bombings occurred leading up to the election. The bombings were tied to extremist groups from the refugee community living in Nepal, which were the result of ethnic clashes in the early 1990s 

National Council elections are set for April 23. The new National Council will begin its term on April 28. Elections for the National Assembly are expected to be held in May.   

Sources:
AFP (via Raw Story) – Bhutan prepares to consolidate democracy with new elections

BBC – Bhutan Profile

Bhutan Election Commission – Royal Decree

IFES – Bhutan: Election Guide

Kuensel Online – The Council Election   

Kuensel Online – Know your candidate

 

 

 

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