Country Listing

Bhutan Table of Contents



The unicameral National Assembly--the Tshogdu--comprises the legislative branch of government. The National Assembly has the power to enact civil, criminal, and property laws; to appoint and remove ministers; to debate policy issues as a means of providing input to government decision making; and to control the auditor general, who has approval authority over government expenditures (see fig. 17).

Since its establishment in 1953, the National Assembly has varied in size from 140 to 200 members. According to Rule 7 of the Constitution of the National Assembly, the legislature sets its size every five years. The National Assembly has three categories of members: representatives of the people elected by indirect vote every three years and comprising between half and two-thirds of the National Assembly membership; monastic representatives, also appointed for three-year terms and constituting about one-third of the membership; and government officials nominated by the Druk Gyalpo. The first woman member of the National Assembly was seated in 1979.

In 1989 there were 150 members in the National Assembly, 100 of whom were representatives of the general public. Under 1981 rules, qualified citizens over twenty-five years of age can be nominated at general public meetings by village heads and adult representatives of each household (gung) and "joint family." Once nominations are certified by village heads and local government officials, they are forwarded to the speaker of the National Assembly for "final declaration of the nominee as a member of the National Assembly." The other fifty members are made up of monastic representatives nominated by the Central Monastic Body in Thimphu (or Punakha in the winter) and eight district monastic bodies, members of the Council of Ministers (Lhengye Shungtsong), members of the Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde), secretaries of various government departments, district heads, others nominated by the government, and a representative nominated by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The National Assembly meets at least once and sometimes twice a year--in May and June and again in October and November; each session lasts about four weeks. Emergency sessions can also be called by the Druk Gyalpo.

The National Assembly elects a speaker from among its members and is authorized to enact laws, advise the government on constitutional and political matters, and hold debates on important issues. Executive-branch organizations are responsible to the National Assembly. Powers of the National Assembly include directly questioning government officials and forcing ministers to resign if there is a two-thirds no-confidence vote.

National Assembly votes are secret in principle, but in practice decisions are almost always made by reaching a public consensus. The National Assembly, housed in the Tashichhodzong, provides a forum for presenting grievances and redressing administrative problems. The Druk Gyalpo cannot formally veto bills that the National Assembly passes, but he can refer them back for reconsideration. Although criticism of the Druk Gyalpo was not permitted in the public media, it was allowed and took place in National Assembly debates in the 1980s.

Data as of September 1991