Book Review: Dhurba Rizal. 2015. The Royal Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan

Published date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Dhurba Rizal. 2015. The Royal Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan.
New York: Lexington Books. 436 pp. ISBN: 9781498507479
Bhutan is known to many as the land of gross national happiness, the last
Shangri-La, and even as the hermit kingdom (pp. xxx–xxxi). The book The Royal
Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan by Dhurba Rizal is an excellent account
on the democratic transition taking place in this exotic country. The book is an
engaging and endearing tribute to the Buddhist kingdom and its people. This tiny
and secluded Himalayan country located between India and China has always
been imagined as an abode of happiness and natural beauty. However, the real
story is way different. Deep down the line it is important to understand Bhutan’s
royal democratization process amidst its contemporary challenges. With years of
thoughtful research, Rizal has been able to successfully identify and analyze the
changing political structures in Bhutan.
The Royal Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan makes a significant contri-
bution by communicating to the audience the intricacies involved in transforming
Bhutan from a traditional regime to a royal one and then to a semi-authoritarian
democracy. Thus, Bhutan is a classic example of transition from a traditional
regime in a traditional society where transition took place from absolute monarchy
to parliamentary democracy. Although the monarchy enjoys respect and admira-
tion from the people, it would be wrong to say that democracy is just symbolic in
Bhutan. However, it is needless to point out that the Bhutanese will have to solidify
their understanding of democracy and also prove to the world that democracy has
really made its way in a true sense in this Himalayan kingdom. Rizal in this regard
attempts to initiate a healthy debate amidst practicing traditional values, which has
kept Bhutan together as a nation and also welcoming the changes happening
around the world. As the monarchy is the most important institution in Bhutan,
it became really difficult to legitimize democracy in the country. Although
Bhutan’s constitution looks fairly democratic to others around the world, it is
in reality an absolute monarchy. Rizal has also discussed how monarchy in
Bhutan has mastered the art of talking about bringing change on the one hand
and maintaining the status quo on the other.
The Royal Semi-authoritarian Democracy of Bhutan portrays at length the
royal initiated top-down reforms, discussing the power struggles between
the royal contenders, different rebellions that took place and even the birth of
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
3(3) 374–382
2016 SAGE Publications India
Private Limited
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2347797016670762

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