23 Apr 2013

Elections in Bhutan

5:59 am on 23 April 2013

The Himalayan country of Bhutan begins electing a new parliament on Tuesday for only the second time in its history.

The Buddhist monarchy gave up absolute power five years ago.

Voters will first choose members of the upper house National Council, a non-party body, then in the following weeks will decide which of five parties will form the next government in the National Assembly.

Sixty seven candidates are seeking 20 seats on National Council and King Jigme Khesar Wanchuk will appoint five others.

Tuesday is a public holiday and Bhutan's land borders will be closed for 24 hours over the election period.

A wide income gap, youth unemployment and delinquency and urban migration are among the main issues. The illiteracy rate is 50%.

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa party of Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley has governed Bhutan since winning a landslide victory in 2008.