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Bhutan to hold mock election in April, May

The dummy run, to be staged on April 21 and May 28, is meant to familiarise voters, officials with procedures ahead of the real vote.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2007 18:31 IST

Bhutan will hold mock parliamentary elections in two rounds over the next two months as a dress rehearsal for the isolated Himalayan kingdom's first ever polls in 2008, a senior official said on Monday.

Bhutan's Chief Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi said the dummy run, to be staged on April 21 and May 28, was meant to familiarise voters and officials with procedures ahead of the real thing.

"Four dummy political parties with their respective colours and symbols will contest the first round of elections," he said by telephone from the Bhutanese capital Thimpu.

"The two parties which get the highest number of votes will go on to contest the final round."

The parties will be named Druk (Thunder Dragon) Blue Party, Druk Green Party, Druk Red Party and Druk Yellow Party.

Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The 2008 polls are meant to pave the way for a two-party system, as part of the monarchy's drive to introduce democracy after a century of royal rule.

In the first phase all registered political parties can contest. In the second phase, only the two parties which have polled the highest number of votes nationally will be allowed to fight it out in each constituency.

"High school students will be selected as candidates to contest the mock polls," Wangdi said.

"In the first round there will be four candidates in all 47 constituencies and two of them will qualify for the final phase."

The selected students will be allowed to campaign for votes and distribute manifestos.

Electronic voting machines will also be used, as they are in neighbouring India.

Around 400,000 of the country's 700,000 people will be eligible to vote, and a draft electoral rolls is expected to be published in April.

International observers and the media will be allowed to witness the mock polls, while the army and police will guard polling stations.

Bhutan, a Buddhist nation, is only beginning to open up to the world, allowing television for the first time in 1999 and Internet cafes the following year.