Bhutan to use students as poll officials in 2008 elections

Bhutan may use students as poll officials during its first election in 2008 when it shifts from monarchy to parliamentary democracy.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2006 13:04 IST

Bhutan may use students as polling officials during its first general election in 2008 when the Himalayan kingdom shifts from monarchy to parliamentary democracy.

Bhutan Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said he was impressed by the student trainees of the Paro College of Education during a three-day mock election earlier this month.

"It was evident that the students had put in a lot of thought and effort in the campaign. It envisages the trainees of Paro College of Education as electoral officers during the time of election," said an Election Commission statement.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck last December 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.

"Bhutanese citizens who have not yet filled up the Bhutan Voter Registration Form are urged to do so before Dec 31," the statement said.

Bhutanese above 18 years would vote twice during the 2008 elections - in a primary round of polling and then the general elections.

"The primary round of elections would be open to all political parties registered with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

The two political parties with the highest number of votes in the primary election will be eligible to contest the general elections," Wangdi said.

Although the office of Bhutan's Election Commission was established in January this year, it hopes to smoothly conduct the 2008 polls.

"Everything should be in place by the end of 2007 and by early 2008 we should be conducting the elections smoothly," Bhutan's chief election commissioner said.

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 members backed the motion.

Bhutan in 2004 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 that gives the monarch absolute power.

King Wangchuck is the fourth ruler in the Wangchuck dynasty that came to power in December 1907.

First Published: Sep 23, 2006 12:56 IST