Bhutan are the only countries which have been independent throughout their history, never conquered, occupied, or governed by an outside power. From the time historical records are clear, Bhutan has continuously and successfully defended its sovereignty.
In 1616 when Ngawanag Namgyal, a lama from western Tibet known as the Zhabdrung Rinpoche. He is known as unifier of Bhutan. After his death, infighting and civil war eroded the power of the Zhabdrung for the next 200 years when in 1885.
In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan, crowned on December 17, 1907, and installed as the head of state Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). In 1910, King Ugyen and the British signed the Treaty of Punakha which provided that British India would not interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan if the country accepted external advice in its external relations. When Ugyen Wangchuck died in 1926, his son Jigme Wangchuck became the next ruler, and when India gained independence in 1947, the new Indian Government recognized Bhutan as an independent country. In 1949, India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which provided that India would not interfere in Bhutan’s internal affairs but would be guided by India in its foreign policy. Succeeded in 1952 by his son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan began to slowly emerge from its isolation and began a program of planned development. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971, and the National Assembly was established and a new code of law, as well as the Royal Bhutanese Army and the High Court.
In 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne at age 20. He emphasized modern education, decentralization of governance, the development of hydroelectricity and tourism and improvements in rural developments. He was perhaps best known internationally for his overarching development philosophy of gross national happiness. It recognizes that there are many dimensions to development and that economic goals alone are not sufficient. Satisfied with Bhutan’s transitioning democratization process, he abdicated in December 2006 rather than wait until the promulgation of the new constitution in 2008. His son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, became King upon his abdication.
Bhutan’s third hereditary ruler, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (reigned 195372), modernized Bhutanese society by abolishing slavery and the caste system, emancipating women, dividing large estates into small individual plots, and starting a secular educational system. Although Bhutan no longer has a Dharma Raja, Buddhist priests retain political influence. In 1969 the absolute monarchy gave way to a democratic monarchy. In 1972 the crown prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, became the fourth hereditary king of Bhutan upon his father’s death; he was crowned in June, 1974. The new king gradually democratized the Bhutanese government. By 1999 the king was no longer head of government; that position was held by head of the cabinet, which is responsible to the national assembly. Since then the country has moved slowly toward adopting a new constitution; in 2005 the draft of the proposed constitution was released.
In late 2005 the king announced plans to abdicate in favor of his son in 2008, when the first democratic elections for a parliament are to held. However, at the end of 2007 the king stepped down and was succeeded by Crown Prince Jigme Kesar Namgyel Wangchuk (the formal coronation occurred a year later). Bhutan subsequently signed a revised treaty with India that gave Bhutan greater control over its foreign policy.
In Dec., 2007, the country began its transition to constitutional monarchy with nonpartisan elections for the National Council. Elections for the National Assembly were held in Mar., 2008; nearly all the seats were won by Bhutan Prosperity (or Bhutan Harmony) party (DPT), whose leader, Jigme Thinley, had twice previously served as prime minister. In the July, 2013, elections, the People’s Democratic party (PDP) won a majority; PDP leader Tshering Tobgay became prime minister.