Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    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)