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Bhutan announces results of first vote

Bhutan announces results of first vote
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First Published: Wed, Jan 02 2008. 10 23 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jan 02 2008. 10 23 AM IST
Reuters
Guwahati: Bhutan announced the first 15 members elected to the upper house following the tiny Himalayan nation’s first national poll as it shifts to democracy after a century of absolute monarchy, election officials said.
Winners included three women and a 26-year-old fresh out of college, the Election Commission said.
The commission, which announced the results late on Tuesday, has not yet said how many voters turned out for Monday’s elections for the National Council, as the upper house will be known. But it said it was happy with how things went.
“The National Council elections were a success. The voting passed off well as it was planned,” Kunzang Wangdi, chief election commissioner, said by phone from Thimphu, the capital.
More important polls 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.
Many of the candidates are young, partly the result of a rule that all candidates must be university graduates, a young demographic in Bhutan.
For 26-year-old Tshewang Jurmin, sitting in the upper house will be his first job since college, election officials said.
This mostly Buddhist country 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 were quite happy with the way things were.
The monarchy, now headed by Wangchuck’s 27-year-old Oxford graduate son, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, remains popular in Bhutan. Some citizens have confessed to being nervous that their country may be spoiled by the changes to come.
Others are excited that the country, where televisions only arrived in 1999, is beginning to shed its cocoon and join the modern world.
Another round of elections for the upper house will be held on 29January in the five remaining districts where no candidates were found in time. The king will select another five members.
Monday’s vote was not without problems. The Election Commission acknowledged an unspecified number of complaints from eligible voters saying they were unable to vote because of bureaucratic glitches.
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First Published: Wed, Jan 02 2008. 10 23 AM IST