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The People of Bhutan Practice Their First Democratic Vote—With Apprehension

May 4, 2007

 

Next year, guided by the enlightened vision of the King of Bhutan, the people in this faraway, Switzerland-sized kingdom of 700,000 will cast their first real votes in a momentous shift to democracy, and during the weekend of 25 April 2007 they held a practice—but according to correspondent Barbara Crossette, with much anxiety. Many Bhutanese think democracy may be a big mistake. The good news is that they will move into the 21st century and be granted the ideal of equality under law with all the hope and promise that entails. The bad news they fear, however, arises from examples of the countries around them: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka – all are “democracies” and all are wracked by violence. Simply giving people the right to vote isn’t the kind of democracy that will end violence and war; to end war we need liberal democracies, which includes sexual equality, something not true of any of Bhutan’s violence-plagued neighbors. According to Crossette, however, Bhutan’s “women have considerable equality.” Maybe in this sheltered world a true liberal democracy will flourish and the Bhutanese, who already have a fine record for environmental protection and where living standards are rising rapidly, will achieve even further enlightenment and a nonviolent future. (EW, SD)
Los Angeles Times, 25 April 2007, Barbara Crossette, “Bhutan’s democratic doubts.”

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