Strengthening the monarchy by stepping down as king

Bhutan is exemplary

It is unusual among India’s neighbours (save Sri Lanka) for the head of government to depart voluntarily. So it should come as a pleasant surprise to witness the King Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan, not only stepping down in favour of his son as planned, but also doing so ahead of schedule. Jigme Kesar Namgyal, the new king, will have a brief period as absolute monarch before Bhutan becomes a parliamentary democracy in 2008. He would do well to follow in his father’s footsteps.

The larger message in King Wangchuk’s move is also an ancient one— that a monarchy is secure only as along as the monarch commands the respect of his subjects. And that respect has to be earned. King Wangchuk has done a lot more to preserve the institution and his dynasty by ensuring that he himself did not become the stumbling block in the succession plan.

In the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness; in their welfare his welfare; whatever pleases himself he shall not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he shall consider as good.[Duties of a King — Arthashastra 1:19/Kaultiya]