The first historic parliamentary election held in 2008 under the newly adopted Constitution recorded a high voter turnout at 79.4% and provided a huge majority and mandate for the elected government. The current government will serve for a period of 5 years and the next parliamentary election is due in July 2013.
The Constitution of Bhutan provides for a unique democratic governance structure where the central government is based on the political party system and the members of the local governments are non-partisan and elected directly by the communities based on individual capacities. There are two tiers of local government viz. the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (District Council) and Gewog Tshogde (Block Council). The executive and legislative powers of the local governments are drawn from the Local Government Act of 2010 enacted by the new parliament. The election of local government members was carried out in two phases completed by end of 2011 with voter turnout of about 54%.
The establishment of a democratic governance system in 2008 necessitated strengthening both the institutional and peoples' participation and capacity to ensure good governance. As reflected in the UNDAF/cCPAP, UNDP is involved in strengthening the capacity of democratic and constitutional institutions in support of parliamentary democracy. In this regard, UNDP support in democratic governance area covers all key institutions under the executive, legislature and judiciary.
The flagship program in the governance portfolio is the Local Governance Support Program (LGSP), which is implemented jointly among UNDP, UNCDF, EU, Danida and the governments of Austria and Switzerland. This program supports the decentralization process through capacity development of local governance institutions and provision of Annual Grants to Local Governments as provisioned by the Constitution to improve ownership and accountability of Local Governments in meeting local development needs.
UNDP continues to support national efforts towards democratization and decentralization through capacity and institutional strengthening of constitutional bodies such as the Parliament, Royal Audit Authority and Bhutan National Legal Institute as well as the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Information and Communications and Gross National Happiness Commission. UNDP also supports strengthening Bhutan’s media and CSOs such as RENEW and Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy to help build a firm foundation for the smooth functioning of a democratic governance system.