Shifting Tides in South Asia: Bhutan’s Deferential Democracy

Issue Date April 2014
Volume 25
Issue 2
Page Numbers 158-163
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The small eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has in recent years moved, under royal guidance, from absolute monarchy to constitutionalism and a regime that might be called “top-down democracy.” But royal initiatives in favor of constitutional democracy have not been driven solely by selfless enlightenment. Instead, the monarchy is best understood as acting prudently in reaction to pressures emanating both from Bhutanese society and from a demanding regional environment dominated by the two huge neighbors that completely surround tiny Bhutan: China and India.