A lesson for us all

Three days after the second local government elections, we are yet to get the final or the real results of what the election commission said was a “historic” achievement.

What we see is gross incompetency. Officials concerned must be called to answer.

When the people do not get election results even after three days, there is a problem. Constituents feel cheated. It’s only natural that people lose trust in the ways elections are conducted, especially when they get conflicting results. And this is not healthy for a young democracy like ours.

Some polling stations had problems with electronic voting machine. The problems were addressed later, said Chief Election Commissioner. But voters had to be called again when it was found that the electronic voting machine simply wouldn’t show the numbers.

This happened in Dangreybu Ngagang chiwog in Dophuchen, Samtse. It also happened in Atola in Mongar.

Electronic voting machines are known to be not completely reliable. That’s why the very countries that produce the machines do not use them during elections. There are flaws with the machines; we cannot play with elections. This could have serious implications in the future.

Why not paper ballot system that many countries prefer to electronic voting machines? Ballots could be counted again if need be and there is little space for manipulation. It is time our election commission explored other more effective and efficient methods of registering and counting votes.

We were told a day later that some old and new sets of the electronic voting machines were mixed up due to human error, and so the problems with the election result. At best this is a lame justification from the commission. We, the constituents, deserve a better and more credible answer than this.

For a small country like ours, messing with elections will be costly. The real danger is that the people will lose confidence in the very system that is called democracy. We can ill afford to let that happen.

We cannot accept complacency and incompetency. Let this be a lesson for us all.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    The elections had been called for a total of 1477 constituencies and elections happened in 1423 constituencies electing as many as 1423 candidates in total. These are big enough numbers even though only 55.8% of total 402,149 registered voters successfully practised their voting rights.

    What I couldn’t find out is the number for polling booths in total. I assume that it’s probably more than 1423. Otherwise, it may be a case where every polling booth had a final result to declare. Only exceptions should be that for the results of Gup and Mangmi. And I even don’t have the number for EVM machines used in total.

    EVM machines do have its own advantages and disadvantages even without considering the technical issues resulting in some malfunctions. One big advantage is that the machines minimise the efforts in counting the votes. But can that same be considered an advantage in Bhutan also with its rather smaller population of registered voters?

    Paper ballots can still be used as it’s the case with many other democratic elections around the globe. Even in this LG election, a total of 35,127 postal ballots were received. But a ‘paper ballot’ has another term associated with it…it’s also a ‘secret ballot’. So if am the voter, I am trying to keep my vote secret from all the candidates, my fellow voters in the same constituency and most importantly from the ECB officials in the polling booth. I only want ECB officials to count the votes later without knowing who voted for whom. Otherwise, counting can happen live as each vote gets registered one by one.

    This is exactly where an EVM machine is expected to get things optimised. Even paper ballots can be used with modern information technology applications in place to improve the entire election process. But ‘secret’ is the key word here that needs to be respected by ECB whenever they want to do something different with the process of casting and counting of votes. And I am sorry if the word ‘secret ballot’ is not mentioned in the Bhutanese system. I have just assumed that it’s there.

    Moreover, paper ballots not utilised due to poor turnout is not just about a waste; it’s also about giving the process of election a chance to be exploited in certain environment.

    At the same time, I am never afraid of letting others know whom I have voted for and why in any election. I also expect that the candidates, both winning and losing, that they should readily accept a verdict without any explanations asked for. If it’s only the fear that I may be harmed for electing or not electing certain candidates without a ‘secret ballot’ in place; is a democratic election system serving its true purpose! If we can be more transparent with the system of ballot, more technologies can be implemented for effective and faster results.

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