March 24, 2008
Bhutan is the world's newest democracy, having just finished its first democratic elections. Turnout was heavy (as much 80% of the population!) and the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party party, a pro-royalist party, secured a landslide victory, grabbing 44 of 47 parliamentary seats. The other three seats went to the rival People’s Democratic Party.
What does it mean that the king's party won? The king, 28-year-old Jigme Keshar Namgyal Wangchuck, will remain head of state, but parliament will have broad powers, as opposed to the former absolute monarchy.
Some complain that the people did not truly understand the choice presented by the election, and a left-wing group, the United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan, has set off a series of bombs and vows to fight for "real democracy." Neighboring Nepal has of course struggled with a Maoist insurgency for many years.