Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Air Algerie investigation continues

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

UNRWA official breaks down over Gaza deaths

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

  • Kerry, Ban announce 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • Investigators reach MH17 site amid 24-hour ceasefire

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9 billion to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run?

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

  • US House votes to sue Obama for over-reaching his powers

    Read more

Bhutan holds first democratic elections

Latest update : 2008-03-24

Voting began in the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan Monday in elections that will select the country's first democratic government and mark the end of absolute royal rule, an AFP reporter said.

Voting began in the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan Monday in elections that will select the country's first democratic government and mark the end of absolute royal rule, an AFP reporter said.
  
The polls are the culmination of an initiative by Bhutan's royal family to transform the remote nation of 670,000 people, which is wedged in the mountains between India and China, into a constitutional monarchy.
  
Voters are choosing 47 members of a new lower house, with just two parties -- the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or Bhutan United Party -- locked in a tight race for power.
  
The two parties have made similar promises to boost growth and develop roads and other infrastructure -- and to stick by the country's focus on "Gross National Happiness" -- making it a tough choice for many voters.
  
At a polling booth in the centre of Thimphu, a line of 200 people dressed in the traditional national robes queued before voting opened at 9:00am (0300 GMT).
  
"This is the first time I'm voting," said Lhamchum, a 68-year-old housewife who had turned up with nine family members.
  
"It's a development for my country and I'm happy about it," she said.
  
The country's young Oxford-educated King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck made a strong pitch at the weekend for his subjects -- many of whom have been  reluctant to bring in democracy -- to take part in the landmark event.
  
Officials said they expected more than 70 percent turnout after tepid responses in last year's mock polls to familiarise voters with the process, and recent elections for the upper house.
  
Polling stations were to close at 5:00 pm (1100 GMT) and preliminary results were expected within hours. Final official results are to be declared on Tuesday.
  
The kingdom's move to democracy began in 2001 when former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck handed over daily government to a council of ministers and finally stepped down in favour of his son in late 2006.
  
Bhutan, about the size of Switzerland, is one of the most insular countries on earth. It had no roads, telephones or currency until the 1960s, and only allowed television in 1999.
  
The landlocked country was never colonised and for centuries the Bhutanese relished their independence and isolation from the outside world, maintaining a barter economy and allowing few foreigners to visit.

Date created : 2008-03-24

COMMENT(S)