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by RAY FLEMING
There seem to be elections everywhere just at the moment but none of them provide a greater contrast than those in Bhutan and Zimbabwe. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan voted yesterday and Zimbabwe goes to the polls at the weekend. Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a near-paradise of peacefulness whose principal political philosophy is the pursuit of national happiness. Zimbabwe, is a ruined nation, short of food and with inflation at unimaginable heights. The people of Bhutan are reluctantly taking part in their election only because their king has told them he will know better what they want if he has a parliament to guide him.The people of Zimbabwe will go to the polling stations knowing that however they vote, the brutal despot Robert Mugabe will probably ensure that he wins yet another term of office to take him into his 90s.

Bhutan, sandwiched between India and China, is a tiny mountainous country of about 600'000 people. Until the 1960s it was a medieval society without paved roads, electricity and hospitals, and with an economy based on bartering.

Under King Jigme's guidance, it has slowly modernised itself and now has a profitable tourist business; the internet and television began to make inroads about ten years ago. The monarch received part of his education in Britain and is now putting into practice some of the democratic ideas he learnt there - whether to Bhutan's advantage cannot be said with certainty.