Greatest Good of the Greatest Number: Bhutan’s Transition to Democracy |

Greatest Good of the Greatest Number: Bhutan’s Transition to Democracy


The small Eastern Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan located between China and India has made a transition to
democracy on its own terms. The first elected government of the ‘youngest democracy with the smallest
opposition’ led by the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party took power in 2008. The entire process – from the voluntary devolution of power from the throne of the hereditary Wangchuck dynasty to the mechanisms for ushering in democracy – was uniquely Bhutanese, and a huge challenge to conventional conceptualisation of the dynamics of democracy within International Relations. For instance, the people were not in favour of democracy, only reluctantly accepting it as a ‘Gift’ upon the King’s insistence, and there was no palpable international pressure to bring about a transition. The transition has marked the emergence of Bhutan as an international actor on the world stage in a manner that is stunning – democracy was not desired by the people, not a product of international relations, largely viewed as an unstable form of government inferior to the Bhutanese monarchy. This seminar -- based on extensive fieldwork observation in Bhutan over 2006-2008, archival studies, and theoretical analysis -- will explain the Bhutanese example in terms of a challenge to democracy as understood by the world at large, and provide a framework for understanding contextual notions of democracy within specific areas, histories, and cultures.

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Nitasha Kaul, Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, London, U.K.

Friday, 05 June 2009
12.15 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 3-5
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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