Democracy Comes to Bhutan

Tiny kingdom peacefully shifts to constitutional monarchy
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2008 12:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – The people of Bhutan went to the polls for the first time today, ending a century of absolute monarchy. Some voters were uneasy about the transition, AFP reports. “We are very happy,” said one. But “sometimes we worry because it’s a new system.” In an unexpectedly strong showing, the Bhutan United Party captured 44 of the 47 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Bhutan’s monarchy is very popular, and King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck himself insisted on instituting democracy. He's expected to retain some power. That's fine with the population, which is largely behind the monarchy’s longstanding “Gross National Happiness” policy. Still, many are excited about the new system. “It’s a proud moment for us because of the way democracy has started,” said one voter. “We didn’t have to fight for it.”