The Himalayan state of Bhutan has become the world’s newest democracy, upon the completion of elections there on Monday. As this Washington Post story notes, the change from monarchical to democratic rule was initiated by the benevolent monarchy. Bhutanese were reticent about what this would mean for Bhutan’s social cohesiveness and some lamented the potential danger of faction, with various political parties competing for the political allegiance of the newly-minted voters:
TOKTOKHA, Bhutan, March 24 — Without revolution or bloodshed, this tiny Himalayan kingdom became the world’s newest democracy Monday, as wildflower farmers, traditional healers, Buddhist folk artists and computer engineers voted in their country’s first parliamentary elections, ending a century of royal rule.
In a historic event for the country of 700,000, entire families took to winding mountainous roads, traveling sometimes for days in minivans, on horseback and on foot to cast their ballots, marking Bhutan’s transition to a constitutional monarchy.
Despite concerns that Bhutanese would be turned off by the rough-and-tumble world of politics, more than 79 percent of the estimated 318,000 registered voters turned out at polling places.
It was the king, as well as his father and predecessor, who ordered the subjects to vote, in the belief that democracy would foster stability in a geographically vulnerable country wedged between China and India and known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Here’s an informative news report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on politics in Bhutan.