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In Bhutan, democracy fails to inspire: officials

With a year to go before the tiny Bhutan kingdom is transformed into a democracy, officials have complained of a lack of interest.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2007 14:23 IST

With a year to go before the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is transformed into a democracy, officials there have complained of a lack of interest.

Bhutan's chief election commissioner said calls for new political parties to form and register by July this year had apparently fallen on deaf ears — even though all the other trappings of a democracy were ready.

"All the fundamental machineries are in place, but there is no notable political activity taking place," Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said in a statement, a copy of which was sent to the agency in the neighbouring Indian state of Assam.

"We would like to remind voters that there cannot be democracy and elections as envisaged in the constitution without the participation of multiple political parties," he stressed.

Landlocked Bhutan's transition from absolute monarchy to democracy began in 2001 when the former king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, handed over the powers of daily government to a council of ministers.

He is most famous for having decided to make Bhutan's priority not its gross domestic product or GDP, but its GNH -- or "gross national happiness".

In December, he abdicated the throne in favour of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in a bid to give the young Oxford-educated royal more exposure to governance.

A 34-point draft constitution — unveiled in 2004 — has also been sent to the Bhutanese people for their views ahead of the 2008 parliamentary elections.

The constitution will replace a royal decree of 1953 giving the monarch absolute power.

According to Wangdi, the 600,000 people living in the "Land of Thunder Dragon" now need to quickly display some interest in the process.

"There is urgency for more individuals to come forward and take up the responsibility of serving the nation through the formation of political parties," he said in the statement, which was received late on Thursday.