Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan conjures up images of peace and tranquility. Indeed, it is a country of serene and striking geographic beauty. But this setting brings with it an isolation that kept Bhutan politically sealed off from the rest of the world as an absolute monarchy until 2008, when it became a democracy. Over the next couple of months Bhutan will take steps towards further consolidating its fledgling democracy. Its people will vote first for the National Council (the upper house of parliament) and then the National Assembly (the lower house). This is the second time in their country’s history that the Bhutanese will be voting in parliamentary elections. Voting for the 25-member Council will take place on April 23. While voting dates for the more influential Assembly are yet to be announced, they are expected in June.
Bhutan’s first general election was held in March 2008. It was a two-horse race between the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Voter enthusiasm was high, with voter turnout of almost 80 percent. Several voters trudged through kilometers of mountainous terrain to take part. Although pre-election violence did occur, polling was peaceful.
Although some analysts predicted a close contest, the DPT swept the elections, winning 45 of the 47 seats in the National Assembly.