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The monarch’s role in Bhutan

The King of Bhutan, or Druk Gyalpo, is the head of state in the tiny kingdom in Asia. The reigning monarch is King Jigme Khesar, who is the country’s fifth king.

The Druk Gyalpo holds several roles in Bhutan, including head of state, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and protector of all religions.

Like his counterparts, the monarch in Bhutan is responsible for promoting the country and retaining good ties with other nations. He welcomes foreign heads of state and representatives to Bhutan and undertakes formal visits to foreign nations on behalf of Bhutan.

Under the Bhutanese Constitution, the King is responsible for protecting all religions in Bhutan. The King is a Buddhist, like the majority of his people; however, he is also responsible for protecting other faiths in the nation, like Hinduism and Christianity.

He also must uphold the Constitution and do what is “in the best interest and for the welfare of the people of Bhutan.”

The King can award citizenship, grant pardons and amnesty and award land and other benefits. He can bestow titles and decorations like the title of “Dasho” and the presentation of the red scarf.

Regarding the government, His Majesty appoints many government officials, including appointees in the judicial branch, Auditor General, and chairs of certain commissions like those of anti-corruption, civil service, and election. The Chief Justice of Bhutan and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the monarch, as are those of the High Court.

The Prime Minister also submits names to the monarch to nominate for the roles of Chief Justice of Bhutan, the Speaker, the Chairperson of the National Council, the Leader of the Opposition Party, the Auditor General and chair people of the Royal Civil Service Commission. Those of the Chief Election Commissioner and members of the Election Commission are also appointed after consultation with the Prime Minister.

The monarch also appoints other roles in consultation with the government, like the heads of the Defence Forces and the Attorney General.

Bhutan’s Constitution allows for the abdication of monarchs – both voluntary and involuntary. If the King violates the Constitution or is mentally incapacitated, he must abdicate; this must be passed through a motion from a joint session of Parliament. If three-fourths of Parliament vote in favour, it then goes to the people for a referendum. If it is approved, the King must abdicate in favour of the heir apparent.

Until 2008, the country was an absolute monarchy, but under King Jigme Khesar, he has overseen the democratisation of his country, turning it into a constitutional monarchy.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.