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The First Universal Suffrage Election, at County (Gewog) Level, in Bhutan

Discussion Papers


by Karma Ura
July 2004


Following a Royal Edict to adopt universal suffrage in election for local government institutions, maiden elections were held in 199 gewogs (counties) in Bhutan in 2002 to elect their chief executives. This paper gives an account of this first time event in a country where most villagers had never seen secret ballots and poll booths. It synthesizes detailed data, mostly qualitative, collected soon after the election was over, and assesses aspects of electoral participation that His Majesty the King of Bhutan has introduced steadily to deepen democracy. Beginning with a glance at the territorial organization of the Bhutanese state within which the counties are embedded, the paper compares the electoral results with the relevant election rules.

Keywords: voter turnout, candidate criterion and attributes, nominations
JEL classification: F15, O14, O30

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