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Royalists win Bhutan’s 1st parliament elections

From the Associated Press

A royalist political party swept the first parliamentary elections ever held in this secluded Himalayan kingdom, the election commissioner said Monday.

The Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party took 44 of the 47 seats in the new parliament, Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi said. The People’s Democratic Party won the remaining three seats.

Both parties say they will follow the government’s latest five-year plan, which they call “his majesty’s vision.” And both say they’ll promote “gross national happiness,” an all-encompassing political philosophy that seeks to balance material progress with spiritual well-being.

After the election, the king, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, will remain head of state and probably retain much influence.

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Even in remote hamlets where voting machines were delivered by yak, the election went smoothly, officials said. Turnout was slightly more than 79% of the 320,000 registered voters, Wangdi said.

The vote ended more than a century of absolute monarchy in the mountainous land long known as a quirky holdout from modernity. The country did not allow television or the Internet until 1999.

The democratic process was started by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated in favor of his son in December 2006. Bhutanese regularly refer to both as “his majesty.”

“His majesty is like our father. We all prefer our father,” said Karma Tsheweng, a 35-year-old mechanic.

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The country of about 600,000 people has prospered. Its fast-growing economy is lifting people out of poverty, and nearly everyone has access to schools and hospitals.


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