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Bhutan king gives powers to son

Dec. 15: In a quiet move, Bhutan monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuk has retired and handed over day-to-day responsibilities of running the Himalayan kingdom to his son, Jigme Keshar Namgyel Wangchuk.

An official of the Bhutan embassy in Delhi confirmed the handover, saying that the king made the announcement to his cabinet ministers yesterday. The power shift occurred on December 9, but was not known to the outside world until now.

The change, however, does not mean the crown prince will be called the king. The title will remain with Jigme Singye until 2008 when the coronation of the fifth monarch is held before Bhutan goes into its first elections in a well-planned move to a parliamentary democracy.

“The king said that he had handed over full responsibility to his eldest son, now 26, as of December 9 after passing a royal order,” the official said.

A year ago, on Bhutan’s National Day on December 17, the king had announced: “During the next two years in 2006 and 2007, the Election Commission will educate our people in the process of parliamentary democracy and electoral practice sessions will be conducted.

“I have every confidence that our people will be able to choose the best political party that can provide good governance and serve the interest of the nation.”

In the same speech, the king, who himself was crowned at the age of 17 in 1972, had said the crown prince would be enthroned in 2008. He had thrown a hint that he would surrender his responsibilities before then.

“As it is necessary and important for a king to gain as much experience as possible to serve his country to the fullest capacity, I will be delegating my responsibilities to the Chhoetse Penlop (crown prince) before 2008,” he had said.

By giving up his powers last week, the king is allowing his son as much time as possible to gain experience before the 2008 polls.

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