May 31, 2008

Lessons in Democracy

The long and dramatic history of Nepal's monarchy has drawn to a close. The recent events in that country are a spectacular example not only of democracy, but of common sense.

And what a relief, after so much power struggling between the monarchy and the government, the movement for establishment of a socialist republic by the Communist Party of Nepal, and a 10-year-long civil war.

King Gyanendra (who came to the throne after a tragic palace massacre that might have been conceived by Wagner were it not so horribly true), attempted to crush the Maoist movement by assuming full power and imposing martial law.

This, however, only stirred up public pro-democracy sentiment. A series of strikes, boycotts, and protests in 2006 led to the re-instatement of Nepal's Parliament, which appointed Girija Prasad Koirala prime minister, a post he still holds.

Then the democratic ball really got rolling. The power of the king was cut by parliament in 2006, and the bill to declare the country a federal republic was ratified this week by the Constituent Assembly.

Gyanendra is king no more; his palaces will become museums. Unlike some world leaders, past and present, Gyanendra so far seems to be handling the matter with equanimity.

Nearby, in Bhutan, an even more remarkable shift toward democracy is occurring: This one instigated by the king himself. For the last decade, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck has been transferring power to a council of cabinet ministers. In 2006, he stepped down, allowing his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to take the throne, now largely a ceremonial station. Earlier this year, Jigme the younger encouraged his people vote for a parliament that will further limit the authority of the monarchy.

It seems to me that Jigme the Elder and Gyanendra ought to make a visit to Zimbabwe, and give Robert Mugabe some schooling in democratic principles and the power of graceful acquiescence.

No comments:

Post a Comment