Guwahati: Bhutan has elected mostly people in their 20s and 30s to its new upper house as the tiny Himalayan state switches to democracy after a century of absolute monarchy, election officials said on Wednesday.
Eleven of the 15 members elected in the country’s first national polls on Monday are under 40, and the oldest is a relatively spry 46, the election commission said. Two of the winners are 20-somethings fresh out of college looking forward to starting their first proper job.
This youthfulness is partly the result of a rule that all candidates must be university graduates, a reflection of the young demographic profile of the country.
A little fewer than 150,000 people voted in Monday’s elections for the National Council, as the upper house will be known—a turnout of about 55%, the commission said. “The National Council elections were a success,” Kunzang Wangdi, chief election commissioner, said on phone from Thimphu, the capital. “The voting passed off well as it was planned.”
Explaining the relatively low turnout, election officials said voters in remote villages might have been put off by the long trek to the nearest polling station. More important elections are expected to take place in February and March with elections to the lower house, when newly formed political parties will be able to take part. Members of the upper house, who will serve a maximum five-year term, are not allowed to join political parties.
This Buddhist nation has been preparing for democracy since former monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to hand power to an elected government, even as many of his citizens said they are happy with the way things are. The monarchy, now headed by Wangchuck’s 27-year-old Oxford graduate son, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, remains popular.