Bhutan's political system has developed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In 1999, the 4th king of Bhutan created a body called the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Council of Ministers). On the 17th of December 2005, the 4th king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced to a stunned nation that the first general elections would be held in 2008, and that he would abdicate the throne in favour of his eldest son, the crown prince. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck took the throne on December 14, 2006 upon his father's abdication. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was adorned with Bhutan's Raven Crown at an ornate coronation ceremony in Thimphu on Thursday, November 6, 2008, becoming the world's youngest reigning monarch and head of the newest democracy.
Bhutan's head of state is the Druk Gyalpo ("Dragon King"). Although his title is hereditary, he must retire by age 65, and he can be removed by a two-thirds majority vote by the parliament. Prior to 2008, a similar abdication process existed under which the unicameral National Assembly, or Tshogdu could force the king to abdicate.
The Je Khenpo is the highest religious official of Bhutan and head of the Dratshang Lhentshog (Monastic Affairs Commission). He is typically viewed as the closest and most powerful advisor to the King of Bhutan.
Bhutan's head of government is its Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is nominated by the party that wins the most seats in the National Assembly and heads the Council of Ministers.
In 1998, the monarch's executive powers were transferred to the Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Council of Ministers are elected by the National Assembly for a fixed five-year term and must be a part of the legislative assembly. The cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister, who is the head of government. The post of Prime Minister rotates each year between the five candidates who secures the highest number of votes. The 2005 draft Constitution of Bhutan included provision for a two-party democratic system that was unveiled after four years of preparation. Previously, the candidates to the Council of Ministers were nominated by the monarch, elected by the National Assembly. The members served fixed, five-year terms. There was also a Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde), members nominated by the monarch.
Bhutan elects its legislative branch through universal suffrage under the Constitution of 2008. The Bhutanese parliament is bicameral, consisting of a National Council (upper house) and a National Assembly (lower house).
Prior to 2008, the legislative branch was the unicameral Tshogdu. The Tshogdu had 150 members, 106 members elected at various dates for a three-year term in single-seat constituencies, 34 appointed members and 10 representatives of the monastic body. Suffrage in Bhutan at that time was unique in that each family unit, rather than individual, had one vote.
Bhutan's legal system is based on codes established by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 17th century and influenced by Anglo-Indian common law. Under the Constitution of 2008, the Judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court, the High Court, and 20 Dzongkhag Courts. For 13 dungkhag jurisdictions in six Dzongkhag, Dungkhag Courts are the courts of first instance. In all jurisdictions outside dungkhags, the Dzongkhag Courts are the civil and criminal courts of first instance. The High Court is the first court of appeal, and the Supreme Court is the court of final appeal. The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction over Constitutional questions and matters of national importance referred by the King. Judges of the Supreme and High courts are appointed by the King.
Before 2008 in the Bhutanese judicial system, the monarch was the final court of appeal (the "Supreme Court of Appeal"), and local government officials adjudicated minor crimes. The Royal High Court of Bhutan was the highest court in the country and had original jurisdiction over the twenty districts of the nation. Judicial appointments were made by the monarch, and could be recalled by him at any time.
Bhutan is divided in 20 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chukha, Dagana, Gasa, Ha, Lhuntse, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatshel, Punakha, Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, Sarpang, Thimphu, Trashirang, Trashiyangtse, Trongsa, Tsirang, Wangdue Phodrang and Zhemgang.