The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhutan shows UK the way
- Draft constitution sets king’s retirement at 65

Jaigaon (Jalpaiguri), March 26: Monarchs never retire. Ask king-in-waiting Prince Charles, who arrived in the country with wife Camilla today.

At 57-plus, Charles is still waiting for his turn as the 80-year-old Queen Elizabeth sits pretty on the British throne.

He wouldn’t have to, had Britain done what Bhutan is proposing to do. The tiny kingdom is bringing in a Himalayan change ' it plans to fix a retirement age for kings!

Once the constitution of Bhutan ' the brainchild of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who has been guiding his country towards parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, as in Britain ' comes into force in 2008, the sovereign might have to step down voluntarily at 65.

The retirement provision is part of the draft constitution being debated in the kingdom, after a copy was sent to the administration of the 20 districts in March last year.

King Jigme will, however, not wait till 65. He plans to retire in 2008 ' when he will be 52, five years younger than what king-in-waiting Charles is now ' and hand over the reins to Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk.

If Britain were to take a leaf out of Bhutan’s book and bring a retirement plan, Charles could be king tomorrow. But the prince, whose first trip to India with Camilla takes him to Punjab and Rajasthan where he will push organic farming, wouldn’t get too many years at the top.

It would be good news for Prince William, the 20-something son of Charles and first wife Diana who is next in line. He would get an early chance to rule and the promise of a long reign.

But Britain, which is happy with its queen, may not think of such a plan yet. Why monarchs, even democratically elected leaders have no retirement age ' both Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister before him, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, are well over 65. Nor do heads of family-owned business empires, for that matter.

Even Bhutan, where the king has been decentralising power over the past two decades, is not all in favour of the idea.

Yesterday, the crown prince met people from all walks of life at Phuentsholing High School to explain the provisions of the draft constitution. Chief justice Sonam Tobgye, who is also chairman of the committee that drew up the constitution, was with him.

There was a demand at the meeting in Phuentsholing, the district headquarters of Chukha, to do away with the plan of the king stepping down at 65.

“The constitution is valid not for a few years but for perpetuity, we have to keep in mind whether or not subsequent kings are good rulers or not, what is more worrying to me is my father relinquishing the throne at age 52 in my favour in 2008,” Jigme Khesar Namgyal said.

For Charles, however, the worry is whether he will have to wait till kingdom come.

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