Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji was appointed the new caretaker prime minister of Bhutan as seven ministers, including Prime Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, resigned to enter politics. The Himalayan kingdom holds its first parliamentary elections next year as part of a historic shift from monarchy to democracy.
A government spokesman said Dorji, who was minister of works and human settlement, was sworn in on Thursday.
"It is a big responsibility to run the government when profound political changes are taking place," Dorji told reporters in Thimphu.
The transformation from monarchy to democracy is the culmination of a plan by former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck - who handed his crown to his young Oxford-educated son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in December - to change with the times and relinquish absolute rule.
So far just three parties have been formed - the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Bhutan National Party (BNP), and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). The former prime minister has joined the DPT to contest the elections scheduled in 2008.
"This is the end of one era and beginning of another. I am happy that I am a part of both the eras," Khandu was quoted as saying by the national newspaper Kuensel.
The other ministers who have resigned are home minister Lyonpo Jigme Y Thinley, trade and industry minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, agriculture minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, finance minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu, health minister Lyonpo Jigme Singye, and the labour and human resources minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.
Bhutan's election commission guidelines require that anybody contesting the general elections scheduled for February-March next year should resign from current posts held in the government or in the private sector.
Bhutan had earlier announced that there would be 47 constituencies in the country, the members of which would be elected to the National Assembly or parliament in the first general elections. Bhutan held two rounds of mock elections in April and May as a dress rehearsal for the polls in 2008.
There will be a primary round of elections where people will vote for a political party and not candidates. The two parties that receive the highest number of votes in the primary round can then field their candidates for the general elections. The winners becoming members of the National Assembly.
The transition began in 1998 when the former 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 the members backed the motion.