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Bhutan to hold mock elections next year

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan would hold two rounds of "mock" elections next year ahead of the first general elections in 2008.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2006 17:30 IST

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan would hold two rounds of "mock" elections next year ahead of the first general elections in 2008 when the kingdom shifts from monarchy to parliamentary democracy.

"The first trial run would take place in early 2007 and the second one by the end of the same year," Bhutan's Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi was quoted as saying by the country's government-run newspaper Kuensel.

Bhutan's bid to hold the first ever national elections in 2008 has been formalised with King Jigme Singye Wangchuck appointing Wangdi as the chief election commissioner in January to finalise the constituencies for the polls.

The 50-year-old king in December last year made a landmark decision to abdicate the throne in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, 25, before Bhutan adopts a constitution and elects a prime minister in 2008.

Bhutan's election commission said some 400,000 voters out of the country's nearly 600,000 people would be eligible to exercise their franchise in the 2008 elections to choose the first democratically elected government.

As part of a special drive to bring about awareness among the people, the election commission is launching a campaign from next month to familiarise the citizens with the election process.

"We have planned to create awareness through various means, trainings, using the mass media and through direct contact with the voters," Wangdi said.

The commission would issue voter's photo identity cards to make the polling fair.

Bhutan had earlier sought the help of India's Election Commission to enable the kingdom to conduct the 2008 polls.

India's former chief election commissioner BB Tandon in May visited Thimphu and assured Bhutan of India's support in conducting the polls.

The transition began five years ago when the king handed over the powers of daily government to a council of ministers and empowered the national assembly to force a royal abdication if three-quarters of its membership backed the motion.

Bhutan in 2004 year unveiled a 34-point constitution and the same was sent to some 530,000 citizens for their views.

The constitution is expected to be ratified after a referendum.

Once adopted, the constitution will replace a royal decree of 1953 giving the monarch absolute power. King Wangchuck is the fourth ruler in the Wangchuck dynasty that came to power in December 1907.

The crown prince said the king would continue to play the role of a watchdog in Bhutan, known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, despite the transition from absolute monarchy to democracy.