Bhutan’s king endorses constitution


Reuters. The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan officially became a democratic constitutional monarchy on Friday when King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck signed the country’s constitution, which was seven years in the making.

Here are some facts about the new constitution:

* It requires the government to maximise so-called “Gross National Happiness”, and guarantees citizens freedom of speech, thought, conscience and religion.

* It requires that a minimum of 60 percent of Bhutan’s total land be kept forested.

* It bars Bhutan’s 30,000 monks from voting in elections and participating in politics.

* No one can run for parliament who is not a graduate or who is married to a foreigner.

* Buddhism is enshrined in the constitution as Bhutan’s “spiritual heritage”.

* Female members of parliament managed to convince their initially reluctant male colleagues that the constitution should be gender-neutral: “he” is replaced by “he/she” throughout.

* Nonetheless, a prince will always precede a princess as heir to the throne of the thunder dragon. The king or queen, who is head of state, must retire at the age of 65.

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