Bhutan prepares to end royal rule

King urges people to vote in an election that will see him relinquish power.

    The two parties standing in the election have pledged to continue many of the king's policies [AFP]
    "As you approach the duty of voting at the elections that will bring democracy, do so with pride and confidence of a people that have achieved so much," he said in a statement published in the nation's newspapers.

    "First and foremost, you must vote. Every single person must exercise his or her franchise".

    Monarch's vision

    After the election, the 28-year-old monarch will remain head of state and the two political parties standing have stuck closely to the king's vision .

    Both the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) have candidates that served as prime ministers under royal rule.

    "His Majesty has guided us this far, and people are asking, 'Why change now?'"

    Yeshi Zimba,
    a candidate

    The PDP's main election slogan has been to work for the "well-being of everyone" while the DPT says it is committed to "growth with equity and justice".

    "No one wants this election," Yeshi Zimba, one of the candidates, told the Associated Press news agency as he campaigned door-to-door in the capital, Thimpu.

    "His Majesty has guided us this far, and people are asking, 'Why change now?'"

    However, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, Bhutan's chief election commissioner said on Sunday: "People are enthusiastic and are in a mood to come and cast their votes, which is evident from the passenger traffic throughout the country.

    "We are prepared for the elections and hope to conduct them in a free, fair and peaceful manner," he said.

    National holiday

    Monday has been declared a national holdiay in Bhutan, with all government, corporate and private establishments and more than 70 per cent of the country's population are expected to cast their votes.

    "I and some of my schoolmates are going to cast our votes early in the morning. We are excited as we would be creating history on Monday by voting in the country's first parliamentary elections," Tashi Dorji, a student, said. 

    The results of the poll are expected on Tuesday morning.

    Bhutan's transformation towards a democratic constitutional monarchy was started by the Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the former king of Bhutan.

    He handed over daily administration to a council of ministers in 2001, before stepping down in December 2006.

    In December 2007, a 25-member national council or upper house of the parliament was elected.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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