Bhutan 'uncertain' about democracy: PM

Thinley's Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or Bhutan United Party swept the ballot, winning 45 of the 47 seats in the new National Assembly. The People's Democratic Party won only two seats.

Government insiders and analysts admit Bhutan is still adapting to democracy, but they point to a vibrant independent media and a vocal opposition leader in Tshering Tobgay as signs of healthy development.

In his first address to the nation after his party's landslide victory, Thinley had made it clear that he expected the king to play a more influential role than might be acceptable from other constitutional monarchs.

The DPT can "look to the future with confidence and knowledge that we will have (the king's) guidance and wisdom," he said at the time. The next general election is scheduled for 2013.

After centuries of self-imposed isolation, Bhutan's opening to the outside world is still in its infancy.

Fiercely protective of the indigenous Buddhist culture of the majority Drukpa people, the monarchy tentatively opened the kingdom to outsiders in the 1970s and tourism - although now a major foreign revenue earner - remains highly restricted.

Before the Wangchuck dynasty came to power in 1907, the country was divided up into countless local fiefdoms. It had no proper roads, telephones or currency until the 1960s, and only allowed television in 1999.

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