Democratization by decree: the case of Bhutan

Mark Turner, Sonam Chuki, Jit Tshering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most recent recruits to the world's democratic nations after more than a century of rule by the Wangchuck dynasty. The first national democratic elections were held in 2007 and 2008 and mark the formal transition from authoritarian rule, albeit of an enlightened nature, to democracy. But most conventional explanations of democratic transition are unconvincing when applied to the Bhutanese experience. This article reviews these explanations and demonstrates their lack of fit with structures and events in Bhutan. The two causal factors which do seem to explain the democratic transition are the strong state and transformational leadership. This is an unusual combination which not only challenges orthodoxy but also extends our understanding of the ways in which democratization can occur, a paradoxical way where, without any elite or popular pressure, monarchical powers are directed towards enabling democratization
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-210
Number of pages27
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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