ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Democracy from Above

A royalty-guided democracy takes shape in Bhutan. 

Bhutan joined the list of democratic nations with elections to choose candidates for its lower house of parliament, the national assembly, on March 24. Among the royalist parties that contested, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party was the main victor in these polls, winning 45 out of the 47 seats. Jigme Thinley, the leader of the DPT is designated to become the prime minister of the country. The elections were held following a royal decree that persuaded citizens to vote.

Bhutan’s transition to democracy has thus been guided by the benign hand of the hitherto absolute monarch. The current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck had come to power after his father Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicated and promised a shift to a constitutional monarchy in the predominantly mountainous state. The royal family in Bhutan controls most of the wealth and owns two of the largest business conglomerates. The current king had however made all efforts to ensure that many of the eligible Bhutanese get to vote in the elections to the national assembly. But a significant number of Bhutanese were disenfranchised owing to the fact they did not “fit” within the cultural parameters set by the monarch to be eligible for Bhutanese citizenship. These sections, primarily Nepali-speaking, are concentrated in southern Bhutan and have refused to accept the verdict of the elections of which they were not a part. Many Nepali-speaking Bhutanese had been exiled to Nepal earlier as refugees, complicating the problem.

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