Confusion persists about Parliament’s role
Voters in Bhutan cast ballots to begin electing a Parliament on Tuesday for only the second time in the Himalayan nation’s history, five years after the monarchy ceded absolute power.
The day was declared a public holiday, while the land borders were closed for 24 hours over the election period.
They used electronic voting machines to choose members of the Upper House National Council, whose 25 members have no party affiliation.
In coming weeks, they will decide which of five parties will form the next government in the Lower House National Assembly.
The role of the Council is to monitor the actions of the government, review legislation and advise King Jigme Khesar Wangchuk. It can also propose laws, provided they are not financial.
Observers say the outcome of the council vote is unlikely to be a pointer to the National Assembly elections, whose dates have still to be announced.
Bhutan is famed for its upscale tourism and unique yardstick of Gross National Happiness, which measures the mental well-being of citizens, not just their material wealth.
The nation has seen widescale development under the centre-right Druk Phuensum Tshogpa party of Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley, which scored a landslide win in 2008. But a large income gap and youth unemployment have caused discontent among voters.
Bhutan held its first parliamentary elections in 2008 after its beloved royal family opted to step back and peacefully transform the country into a constitutional monarchy. — AFP