Bhutan is a monarchy. Its king, called the druk gyalpo (dragon king), served as both head of state and government until mid-1998, when he voluntarily relinquished his role as head of government. Under reforms introduced by royal edict in 1998, executive power is exercised by a Council of Ministers, headed by a chairman who serves as head of state. Ministers, whose term of office is five years, elect the chairman for a one-year term. There is no constitution, but the king’s power is limited by a semidemocratically elected National Assembly (Tshogdu), which has about 150 members. Two-thirds of the members are representatives of the people and are elected every three years; the rest are made up of monastic representatives appointed by the Buddhist hierarchy and government officials appointed by the king. Under the 1988 reforms, the assembly elects the Council of Ministers. The reforms also gave the assembly the power to vote, by a two-thirds majority, to require the king to abdicate in favor of his successor. There are no legal political parties in Bhutan.
Civil laws in Bhutan have been influenced by traditional Buddhist law. Village heads resolve minor civil disputes. The principal trial courts are a High Court and district courts; the king is the final, highest level of appeal in Bhutan.
Bhutan is divided into four administrative zones, 18 districts, and 191 village groups for purposes of administration.
Bhutan joined the UN in 1971. It receives most of its foreign aid for development from India and from international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and the UN. India is Bhutan’s de facto military protector and weapons supplier. It also provides advanced training to the Bhutan Army, which numbers about 6,000. Bhutan pays India an annual sum in return for these services.