Even as the primary round of the National Assembly election draws closer, there are warnings being issued reminding people with authority or influence to be apolitical or not influence voters. This is a good reminder as most voters are undecided or are not convinced enough to decide their precious vote.

By law, Bhutanese voters have the right to exercise their franchise. By practice, it is always alleged that many voters depend on many factors, including influence or out of fear to vote for a party even if they do not believe in the ideologies of a political party.

A recent office order from the Royal Bhutan Police stated that they have found that officers and other ranks are taking part in political activities through social media platforms. The order commands officers to warn others of aligning themselves with political parties. Those doing so, the order states, will be dealt severely with the police Act, rules and regulations. Another order from the Royal Bhutan Army cautions officers of consequences of getting involved in political activities.

These are important notifications as Bhutanese prepare for the primary round of the elections. There are five political parties and as the election nears, some are getting overexcited. As a society with deep respect to hierarchy, an influential person – with power or wealth – could easily influence voters, many of whom depend on suggestions for advice.

After 15 years of democracy, there are still a good number of voters who can be easily influenced. Many of them listen, without second thought, to their bosses or dashos. The decision of the family head determines who votes for whom, especially if parties are not convincing or confusing voters.

In a democracy where even a single can change an election result, our voters should be convinced of why they vote or whom they vote for. The reminders come at an appropriate time when political parties are trying to entice voters through various means.

There had been accusations in the past of how those voting through postal ballots were influenced. A voter filling up the postal ballot in front of his supervisor or dasho, will not be able to exercise his rights. Voting then becomes just a formality.

Even as we prepare for the primary round, there are accusations of voters, coordinators and tshogpas being bought to influence election results. While it is easy to accuse, it is difficult to prove with evidence, to take actions against political parties or their overexcited party workers.

That the Royal Bhutan Police and the Royal Bhutan Army are warning their officers to remain apolitical is a good example of letting people exercise their rights in a free and fair manner. This comes at a time when some voters voting through postal ballots are becoming sceptical of, for instance, even the pen given to fill up the ballot.

In Bhutan, the vote is compared to a norbu (jewel). It is considered sacred. It is the only right a voter has. He or she should have the right to decide whom they vote for. A political party winning an election by influencing voters or misusing power should be guilty of the power they “seized.”