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For the first time in its history, Bhutan has chosen parliament

March 25 2008
03:23

Residents of the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, sandwiched between India and China, in the first-ever elections voted for the party supporters maintain the monarchy, but against the party headed by his uncle the king. Probably some part of the electorate drew the Party's slogan, promising to combine economic growth with social justice.

The young King Jigme Wangchuck Hesar Bhutan popular among people whose opinion prevails that the age-old institution of the monarchy guarantees stability, and democracy faces uncertain.

The reigning house Wangchuck, however, pursued a policy of gradual transition from absolute monarchy to a constitutional and election of a parliament of 47 people completing the process.

Both leading parties - the People's Democratic Party and Druk Phuensum Tsongpa "(Harmony Party) - in favor of retaining the monarchy. The first of these was headed by the king's uncle Sangay Ngedup. But the "Druk Phuensum Tsongpa" smashed it into smithereens.

She got 44 out of 47 seats in the new parliament. Uncle to the King did not get a majority even in his own district. Many observers interpret this outcome in the sense that King is popular, but many of his relatives, and especially the relatives of his wife - no.

Party "Druk Phuensum Tsongpa" itself is not alien to the ruling elite: its leader Jigmi Thinley is a former prime minister, in the party are two other ex-prime minister and two former finance minister.

Thinleya name associated with one of the most exotic ideas Bhutanese monarchy: to evaluate the economic success not in terms of gross national product, and on "gross national happiness", understood as a combination of economic growth with environmental protection and the traditional way of life.

Both parties say they do not want democracy, but the previous reformist king imposed it to them. Postulates of Buddhism, who profess to residents of the country require to search for harmony, political competition, as envisioned by many Bhutanese are directly contrary to this setup.

Nevertheless, the Bhutanese voters obeyed the commandment of King, dressed in festive costumes and lined up to polling stations before they opened. Total votes over 250 thousand, or 79.4% of the list structure.

Bhutanese life is far from idyllic - a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. But many of them felt a gradual improvement in quality of life. If before 1960 there were practically no schools or hospitals, but now they have and maintain them for free. In most villages conducted electricity and water. Duration of life before was less than 40 years, and now - 66.

Probably some of the voters attracted Thinleya Party slogan, promising to combine economic growth with social justice. Home growing industry of Bhutan - export electricity to India - brings significant revenues, but almost does not create jobs.

In addition, the gradual modernization of the outflow of people from villages to cities, which exacerbates the problem of unemployment, crime and drug addiction. Bhutan has never been a colony of European countries and has long been isolated from the outside world, helped by its geographical position: the country is in the remote mountains.

Foreigners are admitted into the country is extremely rare, and trade with neighbors was conducted by barter, so that the medieval way of life persisted longer than in other countries.

As candidates in the elections could participate only people with higher education, which guaranteed the monopoly of the representatives of the existing political elite. So, the winner of the election Jigmi Thinley studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S., reports the BBC.
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