Arrows thud into a wooden target, and the men with bows sing in celebration. One of those watching the archery tournament is Gyeltshen, an 89-year-old who remembers Thimphu, Bhutan’s sprawling capital, as a “few houses and a forest”. Entering it without wearing your gho, a knee-length Bhutanese robe, meant risking arrest and a fine. Much is changing. He approves of how the king “granted us democracy” in 2008, when the Himalayan country had its first election. On July 13th Mr Gyeltshen will vote in the second. Like many in Thimphu, he says the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (Peace and Prosperity Party) kept its promises to build roads and airports and to provide hydro power. Almost everyone has a mobile phone, and most of the country has electricity. The party expects to win.
In a preliminary round of voting on May 31st, involving four parties, it got 45% of votes, compared with 33% for the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The two now face off. The prime minister, Jigme Thinley, will probably win a second five-year term, though he is confronted by an opposition that is much stronger than before.
Beyond parliament, there is grumbling. A population of fewer than 800,000 now has a dozen newspapers. The more assertive of them allege incipient corruption among ruling politicians. They warn against Indian-style dynastic electoral politics and the entrenchment of power. One concern is that a law barring over-65s from contesting elections might be dropped to suit politicians in their early 60s.
By South Asian standards, politics in Bhutan remains exceptionally clean and gentle. The electoral commission forbids even serving beer or yak cheese, chili and rice at campaign meetings. Each night the sole national television channel shows respectful debates between candidates. Policy differences are slight, and parties vie in their adoration for the monarchy.
Full Article: Bhutan at the polls: Happy and you know it? | The Economist.