Political System of Bhutan

2008 onwards

Bhutan is a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. It adopted its first written Constitution in 2008, a process that was initiated by the Fourth King and followed through by the present and Fifth King. The democratically elected Parliament consists of the National Council (upper House) and the National Assembly (lower House) whose members were elected in the first national elections which took place in December 2007 and March 2008 respectively.

1907 – 2008

Bhutan’s adoption of the present system of governance in 2008 is often depicted as a rapid transformation. However, our political history show that our Kings made far-sighted decisions to prepare the country for these changes. Beginning from 1907 till 2008, Bhutan had a Monarchical system of governance wherein hereditary Monarchs from the Wangchuck dynasty ruled the country. The first King of Bhutan was enthroned on 17th December 1907 by a unanimous decision of the clergy, the people and the government. His ascension to the throne marked the end of many years of disputes among regional and district factions to gain supremacy over each other. The first King unified the country and laid the foundation for peace and stability. He was succeeded by the second King who strengthened the structure of government, maintained peace and harmony, and initiated the beginnings of modern-day developments. The third King launched the country on a path of socio-economic transformation, started in-country governance reforms and put Bhutan on the international stage. The fourth King is known for his exceptional devotion to the country and people, and has furthered the social and economic progress of the country, and laid the foundations for a vibrant democracy. His Majesty the Fifth King ascended to the throne on 6th November 2008.

Certain important milestones initiated by our Monarchs in preparation for the political transitioning include the establishment of a National Assembly in 1953, the Royal Advisory Council as a consultative body in 1965, a cabinet in 1968, decentralization of powers to districts and blocks in 1981 and 1991 respectively, and devolution of responsibilities and powers to an elected cabinet in 1998. In 2001, His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan initiated the process of drafting a written Constitution for Bhutan through a committee made up of members from the Monastic body, the Judiciary, people’s representatives, the civil service, local research institutes, and the environment commission. The draft of the Constitution was widely discussed and debated with their Majesties the Fourth and Fifth Kings personally holding consultations in all the 20 districts in the country. Apart from the Legislative and the Executive, the independence of the Judiciary has received paramount importance. In 1959, under the guidance of the Third King of Bhutan, the National Assembly enacted the first comprehensive codified law called the Thrimzhung Chhenmo(Supreme Law). Less than a decade later in 1968, the High Court was established and in 1978, the lowest formal courts were established at sub-district levels. Towards the end of 2009, the first Supreme Court, the highest appellate body, was established with the appointment of Bhutan’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice. This event completed the four tier formal court system in the country.


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