Bhutan votes in 2nd ever parliamentary poll

GAUHATI, India (AP) — People in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan were cementing their young democracy Tuesday by voting in the nation’s second parliamentary election.

The remote nation of 700,000 had its first election in 2008 after the king voluntarily reduced the monarchy’s role in running the country.

A total of 67 candidates were competing Tuesday for the 20 elected seats in the 25-member upper house. The five remaining seats are filled by royal appointment. The candidates were running without party affiliation.

However, five parties will contest polls for the more influential lower house, expected in June. Only two parties contested the 2008 election, when the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa won a landslide victory.

A royal decree issued before Tuesday’s election asked “all voters to take their right and duty seriously.”

Results were expected Wednesday.

About 5,000 officials were conducting the voting at 850 polling stations, many of them in hard-to-reach mountain villages, said Kunzang Wangdi, the chief election commissioner. Election officials had been using Indian Air Force helicopters to drop polling machines and officials at remote polling stations in the past few days, but severe rain and wind hampered their efforts, he said.

As the bad weather lifted somewhat Tuesday, the government was able to finish the job using commercial helicopters.

Bhutan had long been closed off to the rest of the world, but began reaching out in the 1960s. Foreigners and the international media were first admitted in 1974. Television finally arrived in 1999.

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