Bhutan. On March 24, elections were held for the National
Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. Elections to the
upper house had been made on December 31, 2007. According to
Countryaah reports, these were
Bhutan's first free elections after a hundred years of
absolute monarchy. The election to the National Assembly
became a landslide victory for one of the two parties to run
for office. Bhutan Consensus Party (DPT) received 45 of the
47 seats. The party is led by Jigme Yoser Thinley, who was
prime minister during the previous political system when the
post rotated among the ministers.
That the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Sangay
Ngedup, former prime minister, received only two seats
surprised many. Both parties are loyal to the king and have
similar programs, including reduced poverty and improved
infrastructure. The PDP's two members resigned and accused
the DPT of irregularities in the election. Ngedup, who
himself did not get a seat in the National Assembly,
appealed the election results to the electoral authority.
The appeal was rejected and in early April the PDP members
resumed their seats in the National Assembly, saying they
would form a "small but loud" opposition.
In practice, only a small elite can be elected to the
parliament in Bhutan. The candidates must have a university
degree, which is unusual in the country. The Bhutanese
People's United Party (BPUP) had tried in vain to register
in the fall of 2007. The authorities said no because the
party candidates did not have enough education.
The turnout was close to 80 percent, much higher than
during the 2007 general elections. One reason may have been
that King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk had invited the
people to vote in the day before the election.
In April, the king formally appointed Jigme Yoser Thinley
as prime minister and he then formed a government of ten
ministers. In May, Parliament was opened. The country's
first written constitution, a proposal from the king in
2005, was approved by the lower and upper house in June. The
constitution entails a transfer of power from the king to
the government and parliament.
On November 6, the 28-year-old King Wangchuk was crowned.
He took over power after his father as early as 2006, but
the coronation had been postponed until the parliamentary
elections were completed.
More than 10,000 of the approximately 107,000 Bhutanese
refugees who have been living in refugee camps in Nepal
since the early 1990s were received in 2008 in Western
countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, Denmark and
Norway and others. The United States has promised to receive
a total of 60,000 refugees.