Bhutan Test-Drives Democracy

Himalayan kingdom not sold on the ride or the mileage
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2007 3:28 PM CDT
Bhutanese wait outside a polling booth to cast their vote during a mock poll in Bangtsho, Bhutan, Saturday, April 21, 2007. On Saturday, thousands of people spilled out of their homes to vote in a mock...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan held a mock election Saturday in preparation for the transition from monarchy to democracy set for next year. The yellow thunder dragon defeated its blue, green, and red counterparts in the vote, a test run for the latest reform advocated by modernization-minded King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who plans to abdicate.

A quarter-million Bhutanese, about half of those eligible, cast ballots, with yellow capturing 44%. Some said they just voted for their favorite color, but yellow is also the hue of the monarchy. Critics call the king's elaborate modernization pageant (including measurements of "gross national happiness") a distraction from Bhutan's harsh treatment of the ethnic Nepalese.