The tiny Himalayan monarchy of Bhutan held its first democratic election, handing a parliamentary landslide victory to former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley’s party, according to unofficial results. The election was called by King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, 28, who will remain head of state in the new constitutional monarchy. The heavily Buddhist nation, located between China and India, has been ruled by the Wangchuck dynasty for more than 100 years. (BBC News)
What the commentators said
“It is not naïve to call Bhutan the last Himalayan Eden,” said William Dalrymple in the London Telegraph, and this is due in no small part to its “enlightened monarchy.” There is almost no tourism, pollution, or poverty. The biggest threat to this idyllic nation might in fact be “democracy.” It’s not hard to see why the people are “anxious” and “slightly baffled” as to why their Oxford-educated king would foist democracy on “a perfectly good political system.”
King Wangchuck isn’t the only of the “Buddhist autocrats” to see his power diminished this week, said Graeme Wood in The Atlantic’s Current blog. The Dalai Lama had to watch “helplessly” as his subjects in nearby Tibet continued their “violent protests,” despite his “pleas for calm.” Add to that the “freely expressed desire” of the Bhutanese to retain their monarchy and you have to conclude that “democratization of the Buddhist street” is just as complicated and unwelcome as “democratization of the Arab one.”
And why should the Bhutanese embrace democracy? said Christof Putzel in The Huffington Post. When they look at the “corruption, strife, misery, and uncertainty” in the “neighboring ‘democracies’ in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan,” their “intensely Buddhist kingdom” has to look good in comparison. Maybe our democracies could learn a thing of two from the “unity” of a monarchy whose main metric of well-being is “Gross National Happiness.”
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