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    Bhutan Votes in 2nd Democratic Elections

    Voters in Bhutan cast ballots Friday, as the Himalayan nation began choosing a democratically elected government for only the second time since a century-old monarchy ceded power in 2008.

    The outcome of the first round of ballots will determine which two of the four contesting parties will participate in the second stage of voting in July to fill the 47-seat National Assembly.

    Ahead of the polls, analysts predicted the center-right DPT party, which governed for the past five years, would dominate Friday's voting. Late in the day, the French news agency quoted officials as saying the DPT had received 45 percent of the vote, which took place in monsoon conditions. Authorities placed voter turnout at 55 percent of the county's nearly 382,000 registered voters.

    Final tallies were expected Saturday.



    Bhutan -- a predominantly Buddhist nation wedged between northern India and China -- is the only country in the world to officially pursue policies aimed at creating "gross national happiness" -- a development model that seeks to measure the mental as well as material well being of its citizens.

    The country only allowed television in 1999, and still restricts mass tourism in a push to preserve its Buddhist culture.

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