Political System

kingnqueenThe sovereign Kingdom of Bhutan is a constitutional democratic monarchy. The Kingdom was an absolute monarchy between 1907 and 1950s. The march towards democracy has been steady and peaceful since 1950s. In July 18, 2008, Bhutan signed its first constitution. Under the constitution, Bhutan is a Sovereign Kingdom and a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution and the final authority on its interpretation.
Today, the King is the head of state. Prime Minister is the head of the government, who along with the Lhengye Zhungtshog or council of ministers, exercises the executive power. Legislative power is vested in the National Council, the upper house, and National Assembly, the lower house.
Bhutan’s modern political history began with the enthronement of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan on December 17, 1907. Successive monarchs worked towards modernising and democratising Bhutan.
In order to ensure a more democratic governance of the country, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1953 established the National Assembly (Tshogdu). Every gewog, a group of villages and an intermediate administrative unit between a dzongkhag (district) and village, had an elected member representing people in the National Assembly to enact laws and to discuss issues of national importance. In the year 1963, Royal Advisory Council (Lodroe Tshogde) was established as a link between the King, council of ministers and the people.
The process of decentralisation and democratisation was extended by the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1981 through the establishment of the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (District Development Assembly) and in 1991 through Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (County Development Committee).
In 1998, the fourth King handed over the power to rule the county to the cabinet ministers and he started to serve as the Head of the State while the government was managed by the Prime Minister.
Bhutan started drafting its constitution in 2001 through a 39-member Constitution Drafting Committee comprising elected members of the people, monastic body, the judiciary and the executive arms of the government, headed by the Chief Justice of Bhutan
In 2008, Bhutan witnessed a major shift in its political system with the first elections launched countrywide with a 79 percent voter turnout. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa won a landslide victory to form Bhutan’s first democratic government. Jigme Y Thinley became the first democratically elected prime minister with 45 elected members, leaving just two seats for the opposition. In the second general election held in 2013, the opposition party, People’s Democratic Party won 32 seats leaving 15 to Druk Phuensum Tshogpa. Tshering Tobgay is the current prime minister.
The organs of the Bhutanese government comprise the legislature, the judiciary and the executive. The article 1(13) of the constitution ensures separation of these three organs. The ruling political party, the opposition, and the National Council now form the legislative body.
Bhutan’s parliament consists of three chambers – the National Assembly comprising 47 members elected from 47 National Assembly constituencies across 20 districts, the National Council comprising 25 members (one each from 20 districts and five eminent persons appointed by the King), and His Majesty the King.
In the new political system, political aspirants are required to have a minimum of a university degree. The clergy is considered “above” politics and cannot even vote.