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    Government and Policies of Bhutan

    In 2008, Bhutan completed its transition from Monarchy to a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy with the election of Bhutan’s first democratically elected government. His Majesty the fifth King oversaw Bhutan’s momentous transition into a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. This marked the completion of the gradual process of decentralization and democratization initiated by His Majesty the fourth King. The National Council (Upper House) has 25 Members ­ 20 Members directly elected from the 20 districts of the country and 5 eminent persons nominated by His Majesty the King. The National Assembly (Lower House) has 47 Members directly elected from 47 constituencies. Elections to the National Council were held on 31 December 2007 and 29 January 2008. Elections to the National Assembly were held on 24 March 2008. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, headed by Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley, won 45 of the 47 seats of the National Assembly while the People¹s Democratic Party, headed by a former minister Sangay Ngedup, won the remaining 2 seats and is the Opposition Party in the current Parliament.

    The Druk Gyalpo (King of Druk Yul) is Head of State. Executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the Council of Ministers. Judicial power is vested in the courts of Bhutan. The Chief Justice is the administrative head of the Judiciary.

    The fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, introduced democracy amid passive resistance from the people who were reluctant to embrace the new polity. They said the country should continue to be led by the great monarchs. However, the King said a king is chosen by birth not by merit and Bhutan’s future lies in democracy. After this pronouncement the fourth King voluntarily abdicated the Golden Throne in favor of his son in 2006. The fifth King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, officially ascended the Throne on 1 November 2008. According to the Constitution, the election to the National Assembly should take place in two phases ­ primary and general round. The two parties that garner the highest votes in the primaries contest in the general round. The winning party forms the government and the other becomes the opposition. However, in the first elections in 2008 there were just two political parties running and the primary round had to be skipped. The election to the National Council is held separately.

    People who wish to run for elections to the National Assembly and the National Council should possess an academic qualification of at least a university degree. Bhutan’s Parliament is said to be the most educated, at least in the region. Religious personalities are not allowed to participate as candidates and vote in election. The arrangement is said to have been made to keep the religion and politics separate. In Bhutan religion is considered above politics.