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Bhutan prepares to consolidate democracy with new elections

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 7:30 EDT
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Bhutanese residents cross a wooden bridge on a river at Punakha, some 80 km north east of Thimphu. File photo via AFP.
 
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The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will go to polls for the second time in its history next month for elections which will consolidate its transformation to democracy, according to a royal decree.

A vote for the 25-member upper house will take place on April 23, said the decree which was posted online. An election date for the larger and more influential lower house has yet to be announced but is widely expected in May.

“It is important that all voters take their right and duty seriously, exercise their franchise and choose the most competent and deserving candidate as their representative,” said the decree.

The landlocked Buddhist nation wedged between India and China held its first vote in 2008 after its beloved royal family opted to step back and peacefully turn the country into a constitutional monarchy.

Almost 80 percent of Bhutanese turned out to vote, handing a landslide to the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or Bhutan United Party led by Jigmi Thinley — a two-time former premier under the previous royal governments.

Political parties have flourished since the last polls with a total of five parties set to contest the elections in the lower house, two of which are led by women.

Bhutan follows a unique home-grown development model focused on boosting Gross National Happiness instead of economic growth, putting respect for the environment and well-being of citizens at the heart of its policy-making.

The Kuensel newspaper said voting for the new 25-member National Council would take place at 850 polling booths dotted around the mountainous country, with results to be declared on April 24.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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