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Bhutan king signs new constitution

Bhutan's parliament endorsed the country's first constitution, formally turning the former absolute monarchy into a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.

world Updated: Jul 19, 2008 01:10 IST

Bhutan's parliament endorsed the country's first constitution on Friday, formally turning the former absolute monarchy into a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.

The 27-year-old king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, signed the first copy of the constitution, using a wooden pen dipped in golden, ink inside a 17th century fortress after parliament had ratified it.

His father, Bhutan's fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, not only surrendered power without a struggle, but actually imposed democracy against the will of many of his subjects before abdicating in favour of his Oxford-educated son in 2006.

The Himalayan nation held its first general election in March, and the result shocked Bhutan after the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa won 45 seats, leaving the Peoeple's Democratic Party, run by the king's relatives by marriage, with only two seats.

"On this day of destiny, in the blessed land of Pelden Drukpa (glorious Bhutan) we, a fortunate people and king, hereby resolve to bring into effect the root and foundation -- the very source -- of all law in our nation," the fifth king said. "This is the people's constitution."

The king's father, ministers and lawmakers looked on as he endorsed the new document. Colourfully dressed monks chanted prayers in a ceremony shown live on national television.