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07NEWDELHI4714 2007-10-24 11:11:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy New Delhi
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1. (U) Summary: Marking the transition from absolute monarchy
to democracy, the Kingdom of Bhutan will hold its first
national elections in December 2007 and March 2008. Though
the USG has no formal diplomatic relations with the Bhutanese
government, the Bhutanese have welcomed Embassy observers
during these elections and Embassy New Delhi plans to send
two officers. End Summary.

Bhutan's Road to Democracy


2. (U) In late 2005, Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
announced that Bhutan would hold its first national elections
in 2008 and transition to a parliamentary democracy. This
follows over a century of rule by absolute monarchs, often
under the suzerainty of a thisd party such as Britain or
India. Incremental steps towards national elections were
taken over the past decade, beginning with nonparty elections
for parliament and transfer of day-to-day administration to
the cabinet.

3. (U) In preparation for the establishment of democracy,
Bhutan has gradually paved the way for devolution of
political power to democratic institutions. An April 2007
royal edict lifted a decades-old ban on political parties.
The Bhutanese government has worked closely with the Election
Commission of India to ensure free and fair elections. As
part of the preparations, the Bhutan government has held a
number of mock-elections to acclimate the Bhutanese people to
the ballot box.

4. (U) On October 23, the Bhutanese Election Commission
officially announced December 26 as election day for the
upper house. Chief Election Commissioner Kunzang Wangdi
outlined the campaign schedule with a nomination deadline of
November 27 and election day of December 26. Results will be
announced on December 27. Candidates will be allowed to
campaign from November 30 - December 24. While final dates
have yet to be officially announced, lower-house elections
are expected in March 2008.

Election Observers


5. (U) While the Bhutanese Election Commission stipulates
that only nations with official diplomatic ties to Bhutan can
send formal election observers, given the warm U.S.- Bhutan
relationship, the Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi welcomed a
small official American presence during the election.
Embassy New Delhi plans to send two officers to Bhutan in
December and again in March to observe the elections as
Bhutan makes the welcome and challenging transition to