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Monday, July 28, 2008

Republicans on High

Something strange has been happening in the Himalayas. In the past few months the kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan became kingdoms no more, so to speak. Bhutan’s King Jigme agreed to cede his absolute rule in favor of a constitutional monarchy (thus remaining a king only in name); Nepal’s King Gyanendra gave up power altogether following a recent vote of his country’s parliament, a significant portion of which is controlled by Maoists.

The interesting thing about the two cases is that, by most accounts, the people of Bhutan love their monarchy while the people of Nepal are more ambivalent about theirs ─ or at least their latest king, whose own predecessors were gunned down by the then-crown prince.

Is this a harbinger of republicanism throughout Asia? Probably not. There are only a few monarchies left there, and most look pretty secure. But then who ever expected the Nepalese crown prince to murder nearly his entire family? Or the ruler of Bhutan to insist that his pristine, little kingdom, long proud of its isolation, begin to join the rest of the world in earnest?

Stranger things have happened. In both of these cases, it seems that the reasons had everything to do with internal politics. Still, they suggest something about the zeitgeist in the most remote lands on earth.


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“ surtout, pas trop de zèle “



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