The Fourth Dragon King Abdicates His Throne and its Power

March 8, 2011 |  by  |  Dispatches, Government

During an(other) era of—rule-at-all-cost-even-if-your-people-are-really-pissed-off-at-you—the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan not only abdicated his throne to his eldest son in 2006, but he declared that his country would hold its first democratic elections. During the last of 30 years of ruling his nation under the premise of Gross National Happiness and traditional Buddhist beliefs, Jigme Singye Wangchuck at age 50, gave up his throne while sending every household a new draft constitution. In 2008 he gave up power to offer his people more.

Including signifying impeachment options to the people, the Constitution of Bhutan “is based on Buddhist philosophy, international Conventions on Human Rights, comparative analysis of 20 other modern constitutions, public opinion, and existing laws, authorities, and precedents.”

Their government is now considered a Constitutional Democratic Monarchy in which a monarch acts as head of state and rules within the parameters of a constitution. In contrast to an absolute monarchy where the monarch rules, or an absolute democracy where the people ‘rule’, this new constitution takes away one-person dominance while offering the country a power-hybrid. In an unprecedented move while in the shadow of a power-hungry world, King Wangchuck volunteered this new regime.

Pico Iyer calls this a ‘quiet revolution’ when stating in an April, 2006 issue of Time Magazine, “If most politicians are inherently suspect because they seem so eager to grab power and so reluctant to surrender it, what does one make of a leader who voluntarily gives up his position, as if placing his people's needs before his own?” We’d like to find out. Have you had any experience or opinions on this new government in Bhutan? Let us know!

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